Books Magazine

Coastliners by Joanne Harris

By Pamelascott





PAGES: 396


YEAR: 2002



On the tiny Breton island of Le Devin, life has remained almost unchanged for over a hundred years. For generations, two rival communities, the wealthy La Houssiniere and the impoverished village of Les Salants, have fought for control of the island’s only beach.

When Mado, a spirited local girl, returns to Les Salants after a ten-year absence, she finds her home threatened, both by the tides and the machinations of a local entrepreneur. Worse, the community is suffering from an incurable loss of hope.

Mado is not so easily discouraged. Dogged by prejudice from the superstitious villagers, she is forced to enlist the help of Flynn, an attractive drifter. But Mado’s attempts to transform the dying community have unforeseen consequences. As Les Salants returns slowly to life, so do past tragedies, including the terrible secret that still haunts Mado’s father. And is Flynn really who he says he is?


Islands are different. The smaller the island, the more true this becomes. Look at Britain. Barely conceivable that this narrow stretch of land should sustain so much diversity. Cricket, cream teas, Shakespeare, Sheffield, fish and chips in vinegary newspaper, Soho, two universities, the beachfront at Southend, striped deckchairs in Green Park, Coronation Street, Oxford Street, lazy Sunday afternoons. So many contradictions who have not yet realised their main cause for complaint is each other. Islands are pioneers, splinter groups, malcontents, misfits, natural isolationisis. As I said, different.


I thought Coastliners was great. It wasn’t as gripping as the other Harris novels I’ve read including The Evil Seed and Chocolat. Coastliners is a lovely book. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I will definitely read more of Harris’s work.

Coastliners is set on an island in France. I loved the way Harris creates a sense of island life. Life on the island is similar to life in a small town; everyone knows everyone else’s business, feuds date back generations and the place is a den of rumours and gossip. I think Harris captures this way of life perfectly. I loved the little details of island life scattered throughout Coastliners. For example, the festival the people of Las Salants take part in to pray to their saint for help and the fact there are no banks on the island. I think the setting is perfect for Coastliners. The things that happen to the island and the people would not have the same impact on the mainland.

I liked the characters in Coastliners. I thought Mado was great. She was complicated and very real. Mado is the first person narrator of Coastliners. I really liked her voice. I was very touched by her relationship with her father. I wanted to know what the real story was behind his odd behavior and silences. I thought Mado’s father, GrosJean was also a great character. He was very complicated. Harris gives a right good tug at your heart-strings. My heart went out to him. I wanted to know what had happened to make him such a sad, broken person. I liked all of the islanders.

I loved the sense of mystery Harris creates in Coastliners. I found myself always wondering what was going on and where Mado would lead me next. I was never really sure where the story was going to go and what the next piece of the puzzle would be. I like it when a story is so good I can’t second-guess what’s going on. I like the way Harris put all the pieces together.

I only have one real grip about the Coastliners. I felt it was far too obvious that Brismand was the villain of the piece. You just know from the start he has his own agenda and is not to be trusted. When his real motivations are revealed I thought well I saw that coming.

   Coastliners was really well written and enjoyable, the kind of book it’s easy to get into. Coastliners made me want to read more of Harris’s work and more books set in France. I was secretly delighted that Mado lived in Paris before she returned to the island. I’m sort of obsessed with Paris.



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