Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Review: Castle of Water by Dane Huckelbridge

2017 HQ Press • 384 pages

Barry Bleeker and Sophie Ducel are two very different people destined to take the same journey. As they are both aboard a flight to the Marquesas Islands, their tiny plane crashes leaving Barry and Sophie the only survivors. Until recently, Barry was an investment banker in New York before he decided to leave his life behind and pursue his dream of painting. Sophie meanwhile, was a French architect who along with her husband Etienne was planning a honeymoon of a lifetime. Now Barry and Sophie are alone on an uninhabited island in the South Pacific, where they must learn to put aside their differences and survive.

I’ve no doubt you’ve heard this kind of story before. Stick two very different people who dislike one another together on a desert island and you can probably guess where the story is going to end up. It’s your classic stranded-at-sea tale that has been used as a plot device for many books and films but do you know, it doesn’t matter because it’s how the story is executed which makes this work. Dane Huckelbridge brings together all the usual elements familiar to a survival story and adds humour and history to make what is an emotional and fascinating novel about human relationships.

Both characters are faced with the standard problems that come with being stranded on a desert island: meagre food, basic rations recovered from the crash, very little shelter, and nothing but water surrounding them for miles. Barry and Sophie may heartily dislike their current situation and both of them are grieving the lives they once had, but they are survivors and so they must learn how to survive. It does take a little while to build up pace and the first third or so of the story plays with some pretty predictable stereotypes, but it does develop in to a rather moving narrative.

Instead of being just about survival, the story bends in a way so it becomes about the characters. Their story is one of survival but ultimately there is more to it than that. You learn about the lives of both characters before fate washed them on to the shores of an uninhabited island and Huckelbridge manages to mould Barry and Sophie in to well rounded, diverse characters. Stripped down, it’s a simple story but it manages to simultaneously deal with complex and life shattering issues.

When you only have two people driving the plot, there is the worry that the story will run dry and become stale but Castle of Water stays fresh throughout. The imagery is rich and the language captures Barry and Sophie’s struggle to survive wonderfully. Each small victory or major inconvenience they experience is magnified due to their situation and I did feel as though I was experiencing their journey with them. I will admit, I did see where the story would end up from quite early on but I don’t really think it mattered because I had a pleasant experience reading this book. It’s touching, darkly humorous, and emotional throughout. It was a delightful read and I’m happy to have had the opportunity to read it.

Overall rating: 3 stars

My copy of Castle of Water was sent to me by The Bookbag and my review originally appeared on their website.

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