Gull Island by Anna Porter Review

When a thirty-something woman returns to her isolated family cabin on Gull Island, nestled in massive Georgian Bay, she finds that the memories come speeding back. Not just reminders of good times, as they were seemingly somewhat few, but many memories of troubled family moments, infighting and people keeping secrets from one another. To make matters much, much worse, she’s there seeking important documents and to try to find a hint as to where her wayward, secretive, exotic and very, very rich father has disappeared to.

Such is the premise of Gull Island by Anna Porter. A soon-to-be released psychological thriller about a troubled family and one of its offspring.

The main character and potentially reliable narrator is named Jude. The eldest of two siblings who almost never got along, she’s a very troubled divorcee who still misses her ex-husband at times. Her main issue, though, is that she’s a horrible alcoholic whose addictive illness makes it so that she drinks all day and night, and sometimes forgets how much she’s imbibed. We quickly learn this through reading the book, as Jude talks about going to get a drink from a bottle that is surprisingly empty. As such, we’re always left wondering how reliable our narrator truly is.

All of this book is told from one point-of-view, and it jumps around quite a bit. Jude narrates as she tries her best to get the cabin back into working order, after having not been there for a while. She opines about her family, makes judgements about her sister and often goes back to thinking about her unloving mother, who’s ailing with dementia. In fact, it’s her mother who’s sent her to the cabin to look for her wayward father’s will.

Then, there’s the father, who’s been missing for a little while with no trace whatsoever. He’s one of those people who made lots of money in secret, and doesn’t have a problem with jet setting to wherever business may call, but it’s unlike him to disappear like this, especially since his young girlfriend has no idea of where he is. It doesn’t help that the father’s rudeness and secret keeping extended to his own family, who didn’t really know him all that well. He’d disappear, illegally hunt animals on the island, and moved into a nearby cabin which he kept locked.

Part character study and part psychological thriller, Gull Island by Anna Porter is a book that caught my interest for two reasons. To start, there was its premise which intrigued me. Then, I realized that its setting was one I somewhat knew. As a child I spent time in Georgian Bay, with family, and have good memories of being there. As such, I had to request this one to read about a place I sort of know, get in touch with a former life, and support a fellow Canadian.

Unfortunately, I found that I didn’t enjoy this one as much as I had hoped. It was decently written, but jumped around a lot and wasn’t exactly easy to read. Furthermore, I found that the story was very repetitive. Our narrator and main character would often go over the same things repeatedly. Lastly, the ending felt abrupt and wasn’t great. Nothing about this book truly stood out as being special or unique. That said, it wasn’t bad — it was just alright. I’m glad I read it, enjoyed it for what it was, but wouldn’t read it again.

With all that having been covered, there’s the possibility that this just wasn’t the book for me overall. Perhaps I didn’t fit into its target audience as a thirty-something male. I’m going to pass the advanced reader’s copy on to my aunt to see if she enjoys it more.

At the end of the day, Gull Island by Anna Porter is just an alright book. If you’re familiar with Georgian Bay, or like reading about troubled families that don’t exactly like each other then this may be for you. Just be warned that there is some triggering content involving autism. As I hinted before, this is a book about not-so-nice people.

This review is based on a copy of the book we were provided with. Thank you to Simon & Schuster Canada and NetGalley for facilitating our early access. Receiving an early copy did not sway our opinion, nor did receiving it for free.

Gull Island by Anna Porter Review
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