"The thing about an island," she said, "is it has edges, so you know exactly where you are" (Molteno)
The Isles of Scilly are an area that is within the
Somewhere more simple by Marion Molteno is the beautifully told story of a woman named Cari, who was captivated by the Scilly Islands as a child, and who comes back as an adult to teach in the secondary school as a maternity cover, having sought an escape from her gruelling job in an inner-city school. Her story becomes intertwined with two other people who have moved back to the islands - Anna, a doctor who is grieving for her son who drowned, and Hugh, left by his wife.
What fascinated me most about the book was the insight it gave me into life on the Scilly Isles.
Describing the main island, the school's headmaster says:
"It's a small piece of earth we're on...two and a half miles at its widest, under nine miles all the way around. An environment that takes your breath away every time that you stop and look. Still does that to me after twenty-five years. Safe. No traffic, no crime, everyone knows everyone. You couldn't find anything more ideal for the younger children. But for the older ones - too little stimulus for growing minds. No challenge - they settle too easily for the average."
As a result, the school arranges trips to the mainland where the children can learn how to navigate around the towns, and this provides a central episode in the novel.
It creates an isolated state of mind:
For example, Andrew, Cari's husband is watching tv one night:
"Cari joined him on the sofa, but he knew it was just for the cuddle. Things happening on the mainland seemed to her to have lost reality. Island vision, he called it privately, like tunnel vision but leading nowhere."
I felt that the book realy evoked the landscape and atmosphere of the islands, or at least enabled me to imagine it, and overall, I loved Molteno's style and storytelling, and although she has not written anymore novels set in Cornwall I am certainly going to seek her out and am sorry that I had not come across her before.
I plan to do some more Scillian reading and read An island parish (Nigel Farrell). It ties in with the TV series, A seaside Parish, following members of the Scillian community over one summer.