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