Shutter Island

The first time I heard about Shutter Island was when the movie came out several years ago.  Fast forward to a few months ago, I was wandering around Barnes & Noble looking for nothing in particular when I saw the book on one of their table displays and decided to pick it up.  It’s a very well written book, with one big problem for me.  When everything about the book talks about how big the twist ending is, you start looking for it, and if you find it, it ruins the book.  Well, I found it.  Anyway, on with the full review.

This will contain some big spoilers about the main plot of the novel.

Book Stats

369 Pages


Stand Alone


The main character of the book is Teddy Daniels, a US Marshal who is sent to investigate the disappearance of an inmate on Shutter Island.  Teddy is an interesting character if not a terribly unique one, he kind of falls into the category of the noir detective, very observant and driven towards his goal.  In the case of this book, he is investigating Ashecliffe Hospital for his own personal reasons as well as to look for the missing inmate.


Shutter Island, an island in the Boston Harbor.  The fact that it’s in Boston really kind of troubled me, because a very large part of the story revolved around a hurricane hitting the island, and hurricanes don’t often get that far North.  It’s not really noticeable in terms of the overall story, but it kind of bothered me.


I already partially discussed this in the Character section.  Teddy is sent to Shutter Island with his partner Chuck to figure out how an inmate escaped from a maximum security hospital for the criminally insane.  While they’re investigating, they start to see a lot of other things that don’t quite add up the way they’re supposed to.  They start to discover that not everything at Ashecliffe is on the up and up, and they start to see a conspiracy unfolding in front of their eyes.


Here there be spoilers…..  and a huge complaint.

As I said in the intro, when you go into a book or movie knowing that there is a big twist at some part of it, you start looking for the twist.  When the author mentions that the hospital is a place where they send violent schizophrenics, you start to think about multiple personalities.  When you figure out the big twist 1/3 of the way through the book, you’re just waiting for it to get over with because it’s not going to surprise you.  The book is very well written, but because I saw the twist coming it didn’t work for me as well as it could have.

And now for the complaint.  Multiple personalities are NOT a symptom of schizophrenia.  Schizophrenia is a detachment from the reality around you which can include hallucinations of all 5 primary senses.  The technical term for multiple personalities is Dissociative Identity Disorder.  The best example that I can think of in pop culture is the movie A Beautiful Mind, actually, it’s the only example I can think of where they get the symptoms of schizophrenia correct.  Multiple personalities is also a very popular idea in fiction of all sorts.  The only example I can think of where they actually call it DID is the anime Perfect Blue (which is a brilliantly done anime, one of my favorite anime movies).

Overall Grade

Very well written, but I figured out the twist early, which ruined it for me.


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  1. I didn’t realise Shutter Island was a book first. Hm, you learn something new everyday.
    Aggh, it really annoys me when books get details like that wrong. Since I did a whole topic on Schizophrenia for Psychology, I don’t think I would be able to look past the inaccuracies, which is a shame…

    • It would take 5 minutes to google and find out that multiple personalities are not a symptom of schizophrenia, yet pop culture just accepts that it is. It’s very frustrating to anyone who has any background in Psychology.

  2. I guess the twist is much less predictable in the movie than the book; I didn’t see it coming at all when I watched it.

    • It was really predictable for me because I know that most of pop culture thinks that schizophrenia=multiple personalities. My edition of the book also has a quote from someone on the back saying that the twist kept them awake at night. When you know there’s a big twist, you start looking for it. When you go into the book knowing that, you start looking for the twist. I found it.

      I’ve heard that the movie is quite good, I’ll have to see if it’s on Netflix.

      • I don’t think the protagonist was supposed to have multiple personalities. More like he created this world in his mind where he was a detective. Not another personality; but he invented an alternate character for himself to play. He was not himself and the detective in the same brain; he was himself as the detective. I don’t generally like to go looking for the twist in movies or books, but it is interesting to look for clues when you already know what the twist is. You’ll see things you wouldn’t have noticed otherwise.

      • Maybe multiple personalities wouldn’t be the proper diagnosis for his condition, but it is definitely a dissociative disorder (there are 4 separate types, but I don’t remember them all offhand and I don’t feel like pulling out my Abnormal Psych book).

        I don’t know if I’d say that I really planned to look for the twist going into the book, but I found it fairly obvious. One of the things that I’ve noticed recently is that I’m starting to look at books a little differently since I began reviewing them. I’ve always read a lot, but forcing myself to analyze the book and say why I liked it has caused me to look at them differently when I’m reading.

  3. Sorry you didn’t enjoy this too much! I thought it was pretty enjoyable. I watched the movie months before I read the book so I knew how things were going to play out but I was still completely hooked to the book.

    • It wasn’t bad, it just depended on the ending too much. It was kind of like a Shyamalan film in that it really depends on coming out of nowhere with the ending. When you figure the surprise twist out early, it just falls flat.

  4. I’ve been wanting to read this book so that I could see the movie, but then a friend of mine ruined it so I’m not sure I should read it now because I already know.

    • It’s still very well written, it’s just not earth shattering if you know the ending.

  5. hannahrose42

     /  March 30, 2012

    That’s one thing I’m not sure if I would like to do… see a movie (which I have), learn the twist, and then read the book. It feels completely opposite of what I generally prefer to do. However, since you read the book first, I would highly recommend the movie. I’m a DiCaprio fan anyway, but even so, he really doesn’t disappoint in the adaptation.

  6. I didn’t like the book all that much because i found the twist early as well. If you’re intrested in fiction about DID you should consider checking out The United States of Tara, it’s on netflix and a very intresting, humourous show.

  1. March 2012 Month in Review « Reviews and Ramblings

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