Lead Review

  • Book: The Castaways
  • Location: Fiji, South London
  • Author: Lucy Clarke

Review Author: Tina Hartas



It is quite hard to formulate a review for this book without giving too much away. Essentially Lori and Erin, two sisters are are going on holiday to Fiji together. Lori has just split up from her husband, leaving her childless – her biggest desire in life is to be a mother. Her ex has sired a child with the new woman in his life to add insult to injury. The two sisters support each other through thick and thin, particularly after the death of their father in their later teen years.

At heart they have a good relationship but when they arrive in Nadi airport in Fiji, the evening before their transfer flight to LImaji, they have quite an argument. Erin storms off and the next day Lori boards the tiny plane to their final destination alone. The plane crashes.

Two years later and Erin is of course still in shock that she survived and she is still as desperate as ever to find out what happened to the plane and the passengers. No wreckage was found, no trace at all. In the intervening couple of years, Erin has been busy collecting all the pieces of information she can, from all possible sources, and Lori’s room is now like a police investigation room, a shrine to her sister and the missing passengers. Erin is a journalist and after a pivotal discovery she is sent back to Fiji to see if she can collect any further information.

Lucy Clarke is great at keeping the tension flowing – with masterful twists and turns she guides her reader through the different threads of the story. I was certainly really keen to find out how the narrative would end. Having said that I felt the storyline had too many incidences, used to drive the story forward, that felt really implausible. As an example, a book and some clothes (spattered with blood, which would have attracted insects to gnaw and nibble at the drop of a hat) are discovered 2 years after the crash, on a tropical island where humidity is high (as a random sample of the humidity levels today, there is 94% humidity in Fiji, compared to, say, London at 66%). Articles containing cellulose do not do well in high humidity, so it is so very unlikely that the book and clothes (which both contain cellulose) would have survived in the extreme temperatures/humidity. The discovery of a mobile, after two years, that just needed a quick recharge to offer up some clues, really stretches credibility. There were other aspects which compounded the distortion of reality which I won’t mention here as they would be spoilers.

Having said that, I worked on suspending my disbelief, and got on and enjoyed listening to this novel as an audiobook, I did find it quite addictive. And whatever your thoughts, the novel will certainly transport you to an exotic location if you are stuck in the Northern hemisphere and yearning to read about a tropical island that is hot and dripping in dark and luscious foliage.

I listened to this as an audiobook, which was excellently narrated by Jess Nesling and Helen Phillips.

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A story in which the location plays as important a role as the rest of your words.

2,500 word maximum, 750 word minimum

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First Prize of £1,000 / US$1,350

Prizes total £1,750 / US$2,362 

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