Friday, September 24

Book Review: Coastliners

Title: Coastliners

Author: Joanne Harris

Pages: 351

Summary: The island, called Le Devin, is shaped somewhat like a sleeping woman. At her head is the village Le Salants, while the more prosperous village La Houssinière lies at her feet. You could walk between the towns in an hour, but they could not feel further apart, for between them lies years of animosity.

The townspeople of Les Salants say that if you kiss the feet of their patron saint and spit three times, something you’ve lost will come back to you. And so Madeleine, who grew up on the island, returns after an absence of ten years spent in Paris. She is haunted by this place, and has never been able to feel at home anywhere else.

But when she arrives, she will find that her father - who built fishing boats that fuelled the town’s livelihood - has become even more silent than ever, withdrawing almost completely into an interior world. And his decline seems reflected in the town itself, for when the only beach in Les Salants washed away, all tourism drifted back to La Houssinière.

Madeleine herself has been adrift for a long time, yet almost against her will she soon finds herself united with the village’s other lost souls in a struggle for survival and salvation.

My Rating: 5/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: I wasn’t very impressed with the book. I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t like the book either. The plot sounded interesting, but fell short of my expectations, and then fell short of my lowered expectations. I found the writing style to be flat, especially in comparison to another novel I read by Harris, Blackberry Wine, which had an amazing style of writing and story telling ability, this one just didn’t have that.

The plot was choppy, nothing seemed to fit well together, it all seemed like the author just threw a bunch of events together, in a small town, some connected, but they just didn’t have any flow, or seemed to work with the story as a whole. I kept reading, hoping that something would come out of it to make it all connect, but nothing did. The ending was a non-ending, it just ended.

The characters weren’t interesting and they all seemed to have the same personality. The main character Mado, was one of the most annoying, frustrating and useless main characters I’ve encountered in a long time. She was always about her, everyone’s decisions; actions words always (in her mind) were out to get her, to leave her out, etc. It made for a very frustrating read at times. I still finished the book, but at times her character alone made me want to give up on the book.

There were a few things that were good about the book. Harris can paint a very accurate picture of small town life - culture, personality, scenery, rivalry - in a nice little package. The author does have one strength; which is creating a picture-perfect example of small town life and all of its inhabitants. I just wish the rest of the book was as well done as this. Overall, not the best book I’ve read, and much prefer Blackberry Wine.

Would I recommend it to read: Not sure on this one. I’d probably lean towards the no and recommend reading one of her other novels.

What to read next: I enjoyed Blackberry Wine, by the same author, and have heard great things about Chocolat, so you could start there. Lace Reader would also be a good companion book if you liked this one.

Challenges: Read ‘n’ Review, Pages Read, 100+ Challenge, Reading Western Europe, Support Your Local Library Challenge


  1. I have enjoyed a lot of Harris' books, but didn't even know this one existed! I am sorry to hear that it wasn't great, and I am pretty sure that I am going to skip it. I don't like when characters are so self-centered. I think this book just might drive me nuts! Thanks for sharing your honest thoughts with us. I really appreciate it!

  2. Zibilee - The book did drive me nuts at times. Not Harris' best, the magic seemed to be missing. Have you read three quarters of the orange? (I think that's what its called?) I want to read it, but not sure if it is any good.