Posted 20 hours ago

Metronome: The 'unputdownable' BBC Two Between the Covers Book Club Pick

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I really enjoyed the main plot that takes place on the island but the flashbacks let it down for me. They say if you had a powerful enough microphone you could hear conversations that took place years ago. The sense of beauty of the island’s rugged landscape becomes lost with everyday living, time, and experience. The location is not exactly specified but certain factors (they live in a croft (a Scottish farm dwelling), shipwrecks often have Nordic names, the use of an ancient Celtic counting system, a nearby permafrost indicates a northern locale, etc.

You can imagine the type of devastation on The Limits, after which everything is off kilter; is this dystopia meeting reality?This gives an insight into the desperation of the parents, then the discovery and removal to remote Long Sky Croft. Aina and Whitney are sentenced to 12 years banishment, for a crime that increasingly becomes apparent - they had an illegal child. The only thing that appears is a lone sheep - which leads to Aina becoming suspicious that they are not in fact on an island as she believes sheep cannot swim. The author clearly has a great imagination for creating worlds not quite like our own, but scarily close to what could happen in real life. This, with the dynamic presence of the sea - almost a character in and of itself in the way it influences the main characters - makes the novel feel restless and unsettled.

Sent there as punishment for committing a crime not initially revealed to us, they are confined by their reliance upon pills which are dispensed from a mysterious box on the wall every eight hours. The author captures the pure desolation of the landscape, with the weather playing such a large part in the story. The prose was gorgeous, filled with ideas around human feelings and capabilities, but ultimately, the book sucked. However their supply drops have ceased and they are surviving off the land and the occasional shipwreck. The plot started to get lost somewhere around the middle though and only really regained its footing in the final third only to end with such disappointing ambiguity.

The plot is very character-focussed, told from the perspective of Aina, and we are rooting for her throughout the story, with occasional chapters dedicated to (vaguely) explaining what happened before to cause them to have been exiled. Much of the pleasure of my initial reading of this novel was driven by the desire to discover what had happened in the past and how the novel was going to end; consequently my reread was less satisfying.

I had to create a world of my own, like a climate, a country, an atmosphere (in which I could breathe, reign, and recreate myself when destroyed by living)’. Instead of leaving the story in a state of complete hopelessness, we are given some hope, which is almost immediately dashed by a 'deus ex machina' event and a scene, which may or may not be an illusion. The bleak description of their island was so well fleshed out that there was enough sense of place to satisfy me without having a map!They have been on this island for 12 years and are waiting to start their parole, with the hope of finally being reunited with their son. I came out of this book thinking I had mixed feelings about it, but it's starting to dawn on me that it's more an absence of any feeling at all. They are tethered to the island by the need to take a pill every 8 hours and if they don’t take it, they die.

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