An intrepid family of settlers are determined to make a remote volcanic island their own.
For two years Joseph Peacock and his family have struggled alone, trying to make this unforgiving place home. At last, a ship appears. Kalala and the other five Pacific Islanders on board have travelled over eight hundred miles in search of work and new horizons. Hopes are high for all, until a vulnerable boy vanishes.
In their search for the lost child, settlers and newcomers together uncover far more than they were looking for. The island’s secrets force young Lizzie Peacock to question her deepest convictions, and slowly this tiny, fragile community begins to fracture…’
I wasn’t entirely sure about this book when I started it. It begins with Kalala’s narrative, in slightly broken english, in first person perspective. He stands on deck, with his brother and fellow Islanders, on his way to an unknown island. He does not know what lies ahead, and neither does the reader, yet.
The following chapters each have a different perspective – it is either current day Kalala, current day island, or two years before when the Peacock family were preparing to leave their home and travel to the island, and the early days of their island life. Unlike some other books with multiple narratives that can be quite confusing, the perspectives are very clearly indicated in this book and it works quite well, and in my opinion, it adds to the story.
The main story in this book is the mystery around what happened to the eldest Peacock boy Albert – he has gone missing and a search of the island leads to nothing, no body and no sign of where he may be. The family must mourn the missing boy, and hold a funeral for him, believing him to be dead but secretly praying that he escaped the island and the cruelty of his father as he wished to.
The title of the book, and the way he proudly claims the island as his own would lead us initially to believe that ‘Mr Peacock’s Possessions’ are the island and their belongings, but further reading of the book shows us that in fact, Mr Peacock’s Possessions are his family, the family that he leads with an iron fist and will not accept anything less than complete dedication from. He is the tyrant of the story, and although at points we can see him as a family man, trying to keep his family alive in the unforgiving landscape, his violence and stubborn ways make it hard to find any sympathy for him when his family do begin to break away from him.
The viewpoint of Kalala and his religious brother Solomona and their fellow Islanders show us just how the Peacock family are struggling – they can see things from an outsiders perspective – how strange it seemed to bury a body that they didn’t have, how quickly normality seemed to resume after the disappearance, and how strict and how forbidding Mr Peacock was towards his family.
I did enjoy this book, and even though it did take me about the first 100 pages or so to really get absorbed into the story, I found once I did that I couldn’t put it down. Syson paints a vivid story with the wilderness of the island very well described and easily imagined. Her characters are flawed and though they try, they aren’t really redeemed.
It’s nicely paced, easy to follow and well written, I’d definitely recommend it.