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REVIEW: Castle of Water by Dane Huckelbridge

SYNOPSIS: Two very different people, one very small island.

For Sophie Ducel, her honeymoon in French Polynesia was intended as a celebration of life. The proud owner of a thriving Parisian architecture firm, co-founded with her brilliant new husband, Sophie had much to look forward to—including a visit to the island home of her favorite singer, Jacques Brel.

For Barry Bleecker, the same trip was meant to mark a new beginning. Turning away from his dreary existence in Manhattan finance, Barry had set his sights on fine art, seeking creative inspiration on the other side of the world—just like his idol, Paul Gauguin.

But when their small plane is downed in the middle of the South Pacific, the sole survivors of the wreck are left with one common goal: to survive. Stranded hundreds of miles from civilization, on an island the size of a large city block, the two castaways must reconcile their differences and learn to draw on one another's strengths if they are to have any hope of making it home.

GENRE: Fiction, Contemporary


RATING: ★★★★☆

REVIEW: I received this book from the author in exchange for a honest review.

I don't accept books straight from the author very often as a matter of course. This isn't a snobbish or elitist response, it's quite simply because I don't have the time to read every book or even photograph every book (for my Instagram) and I have to draw the line somewhere. But when CASTLE OF WATER showed up in an email, I was compelled to read it, to need it. There was something about the synopsis and packaging that spoke to me. I was amazed that I hadn't already heard of it or seen it around, especially since it has glowing endorsements from best-selling author's like Kristin Hannah. So I said yes.

Every now and again a book comes along that you like but the response is practically ineffable. You can't quite find the words to explain why you liked it, not because the book itself is inexplicable, but because you're experience was just so honest that you didn't stop to think every step of the way, every chapter, just why you were enjoying the read. You just were. That was my experience with CASTLE OF WATER. It's almost as if I didn't take any mental notes while I was reading...I just read. I got lost in the book. I forgot that I was a reviewer.

And then I did remember I was a reviewer because I finished the book and here I am trying to write a comprehensive review (how am I doing?). So I've explained the reading experience... now let's see if I can speak eloquently to the writer's style and story.

Two people are stranded on an island in the South Pacific. Barry, an American who was looking for an artistic and romantic new beginning, but also part boy-scout. And Sophie, a whip-smart French architect with a touch of snark, who's romantic new beginning went down with the plane that crashed in the ocean. If this was the only focus of the tale being told it would still be entertaining, but the author weaves in bits of history and oddities as well. It still spoke to the main story in a way, but it was also interesting and added nuance to the book as a whole.

There's also a bit of mystery which starts on page one and crops up at the beginning of each new section of the book. We start with an unnamed character as he begins his day in Paris and then it switches to other characters who are observing him. The details and circumstances all come together at the end in such a way that you almost want to read these parts of the book again, just to cement them and re-experience then with a fuller knowledge. When I began the book I wasn't sure how I would like this mysterious style, or the middle sections which were a way of foreshadowing, but by the end I really enjoyed it.

Years pass as the main characters are on the island. They shift and change and grow. But even though years pass, this isn't a long drawn out epic tale. It feels more succinct, the action perfectly described, and the self reflection told with a literary flare that wasn't flamboyant (believe me, I've read some truly awful flamboyant inner monologues, so this book was perfect in that respect). There is heartbreak and survival...and a lot of French cursing.

I think it was the author's tone that I loved the most about CASTLE OF WATER. There was no disconnect. Every word sounded like it was written by an American male who lives with his wife in both Paris and NYC (author bio)... have you ever hear a singer who's speaking voice miraculously sound the same (I direct you to Jim Sturgess if you need an example)? That is how it felt and sounded to me as I read the book. I have never met Dane Huckelbridge, nor have I heard him speak, and yet I felt like I knew him just from the tone of this book.

It isn't a completely perfect book. There are a few bits that had me squint an eye but they weren't inexcusable, just little niggles. And I wish the ending hadn't been quite so rushed. I felt there deserved to be one more chapter (of which I won't go into detail because, spoilers). Overall though, I enjoyed the book. It was a nice Summertime read that I would happily recommend to friends.


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Review by The Literary Llama

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