Book Review: The Island House

The Island House, by Nancy Thayer

Publisher:  Random House Publishing Group – Ballentine; May 31, 2016

The Island House

Do you ever want to just sit back with an overall feel-good book, and get lost in the story?  If so, this is the next book you should grab to take to the pool, a lake, or a beach. Nancy Thayer’s new novel, The Island House, is an easy, dreamy novel about a wealthy family on Nantucket, and all of those that are welcomed into their home each summer.

The Vickerey’s house on Nantucket hosts all of their children each summer, as well as, the closest friends of their children, what the matriarch, Susanna, refers to as her “summer children.” Courtney begins spending her summers on Nantucket with Robin Vickerey after they become best friends in college, and this tradition has continued for eleven years.  What no one knows about Courtney, however, is that she has been in love with Robin’s brother James since the first time she met him. As everyone is travelling to Nantucket to spend the summer at the Vickerey’s home and to celebrate Susanna’s sixtieth birthday , the reader is pulled in to an exciting read with a  huge cast of characters, subplots, and secrets.  Believe me when I say that there are too many characters to list and discuss in this review, luckily the author provides a “playbill” of sorts at the beginning of the novel to help understand who is who and what their connection is to the Vickereys. My instinct is to name Courtney as the main character of the novel, however, there is so much going on with her best friend Robin that it’s difficult to discern.  Robin graduated from Smith College with Courtney, but remains on the island with her parents, doing this or that, not demonstrating any great drive to do anything or be with anyone.  Other Vickerey children are Henry (brilliant, Bipolar physician), James (bad boy turned successful, handsome grown-up), and Iris (youngest child, clueless about her future).  Susanna, the mother, is a beautiful, joyful character, and the physician father is basically portrayed as a grump curmudgeon.  Even with the numerous characters and numerous personality types, the characters in this novel blend and interact well, demonstrating love, patience, and loyalty to one another.

Is this novel a life-changing literary masterpiece?  Not at all… However, this novel represents a light, feel-good read about a collection of people who are not only biological family, but chosen family that stand united during times both good and bad.  Overall, I feel like there were too many flashbacks and too much back information on too many characters for this novel.  At times, it became tiring following along with so many issues involving so many people. However, after reflecting awhile, I am thinking it may have been a brilliant idea in the event the author decides to make this a series.  Perhaps focusing on Henry and Valerie’s story next?  Or even Monty and Pearl?  Regardless, it was overwhelming at times. The other thing that drove me crazy was Robin and “her secret.” It’s not as if she was seeing and communicating with aliens from Mars or something, so I’m not sure what it was made to be such a huge deal.  That part truly annoyed me, although I liked her character.  To be perfectly honest, I sat down to start this novel three different times, and it was on the third attempt that I finally got pulled in and engrossed in the story.  However, for me personally the cast of characters at the beginning was overwhelming in a way, setting the tone for too much going on.

Was this my favorite read ever?  No, it was not.  Was it bad?  No, not at all!  Again, if you’re looking for a feel-good read at the lake or the beach, grab this and dive in. Thayer’s writing hooks you and engages you in the plot, and the ending leaves with you an overall happy, warm and fuzzy feeling. Like me, you have probably read and enjoyed Thayer before, instilling high hopes for The Island House.  If this novel becomes the first in a series, then I absolutely retract any negative criticism I’ve written, but if it’s a stand-alone, I’m not sure it works.

Want to know more about the author?  Visit: http://nancythayer.com/

  • I received this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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