‘Shutter Island’ by Dennis Dehane

“This world can only give me reminders of what I don’t have, can never have, didn’t have for long enough.”

Published seven years before the Scorsese adaption, and praised for its well-crafted storytelling, I held back on high expectations, but expectations nonetheless — mainly because I’d seen the film prior, and whilst impressed by the solid performances and plot twists, seeing why this book was chosen for film was something I hoped would not be, should I say, the complete opposite.

Shutter Island’ focuses on Teddy Daniels, an US Marshal sent to investigate the disappearance of one of the asylums patients, Rachel Solando. Along with his partner, Chuck, Teddy begins to discover strange clues pointing towards the truth, but it is one that might prevent him from ever leaving the island.

I’m usually wary around books that feature mental illness – more so when it is used only for plot and nothing else – but here it plays its part in snippets and towards the end of the book. So although part of me was still slightly deterred by it, the main plot stems from searching for the missing patient. Considering the time it’s set in (the 1950s), and the kind of attitude towards mental illness during that time, my need for it to be correctly represented could only go so far when it was not wholly so in that decade; not that it is wholly so in this decade either.

In terms of the book itself, it meets expectations with vivid imagery and strong characters. Sometimes it strays into indecipherable territory within dreams sequences, but it manages to pull back into the coherent and detailed style. From approaching the island, the building, the cliffside and lighthouse, each are fairly described with a clear and imaginative eye.

“The brain controls pain. It controls fear. Sleep. Empathy. Hunger. Everything we associate with the heart or the soul or the nervous system is actually controlled by the brain. Everything. What if you could control it?”

I thought the performances by Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Ruffalo, and Ben Kingsley were spot-on and mesmerising, but come the book, I didn’t visualise them all in their characters places — for example, Cawley (Kingsley), has a different way of speaking. But even without putting their faces to character, the story remains a well-rounded one, if not more refreshing when not relying on the film for guidance because of that thoughtful consideration to creation.

Occasionally, scenes came as a surprise, forgetting their presence in the film, thus making it an enjoyable experience in its unpredictability; others, specifically when they lost themselves within the descriptions, were skim-read but short-lived. Either way, neither are so effective that it leans towards amazing or terrible, but rather is neutral but memorable read.

“Maybe there are some things we were put on this earth not to know.”

I’m glad to have finally read ‘Shutter Island’ — enough that I’d consider re-reading it, or reading more of Lehane’s works.

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