‘If no one knows you're missing, how can you be found? The unmissable new novel from the queen of psychological, suspenseful women's fiction. Bruised from the breakdown of her marriage, Esther Lomax needs to get away, and Malaysia's unspoilt shores seem the perfect place. But a day's boat trip takes a desperate turn when Esther and six other holidaymakers are taken to a desert island and their guide does not return. The group have no way of getting back to the mainland and know nothing about each other. As the days pass, tensions erupt, secrets emerge and time increasingly runs out, Esther must ask herself the ultimate question: will she leave the island alive?’
When Esther Lomax feels the need to do something different and unexpected following the break-up of her marriage, she decides to take herself on holiday to Malaysia, leaving her ex-husband in charge of their daughter back in the UK.
Everything is wonderful in paradise until Esther and some other tourists agree to go on a daytrip to a small uninhabited island. It’s only several hours after their guide leaves to pick something up from the mainland, and doesn’t return, that the holidayers realise they’ve been deserted.
Running low on food and drink, it’s not long before Esther and her fellow islanders are forced to admit that, with no immediate rescue forthcoming, they may not survive. However, what Esther doesn’t know is that even if she does make it off the island and back to England, her worries are far from over.
The part of the story in which Esther and the others are actually stranded on the island was less than half the book. When this section was finished, I was a little concerned that this would mean the action was essentially over and the story would now just crawl along to its conclusion. However, Barr had plenty more tricks up her sleeve, and I immediately found myself swept up in yet more excitement, which although not quite as life-threatening, was none the less captivating.
Esther was a great heroine: she was strong, brave and resourceful throughout the book. Although understandably desperate to return to her daughter in England, Esther never puts herself before the others on the island. She really does try to see the best in everyone.
I’m afraid I wasn’t completely convinced by Esther’s romance with fellow islander Ed, but that could just be because I was suspicious he was somehow involved in them all being deserted. I also felt I didn’t find out enough about him, even by the end of the novel, for me to decide whether or not he was a suitable match for Esther. It was either very brave or very stupid of Esther to trust someone she knew so little about when she was in such a strange and dangerous situation.
I’m a big fan of Barr’s clever and intriguing tales – her plots keep me guessing and the situations her characters are placed in are thought-provoking and exciting. ‘Stranded’ is essentially very intelligent fiction from a very talented authoress, and I highly recommend it.
‘What if the man you love isn't the man you think he is? Lily, a young woman left alone in the world on the death of her grandparents, finds purpose when she befriends Harry Summers, a grieving widower, whose wife Sarah recently took her own life in Barcelona. The pair fall in love and Lily finally finds the security she has never had. But Lily's life takes a darker turn when she realises there may be more to Sarah's death than meets the eye. Anxious to find the truth before she marries her beloved Harry, Lily sets off to Barcelona in search of answers. What she discovers is more shocking than she could ever have imagined...’
When Lily Button’s beloved grandparents die, she’s left all alone and unprepared for modern life. With no real qualifications or money, and her family home being sold to cover her grandparents’ debts, Lily needs to sort herself out fast. She becomes a lodger in a busy family home, and begins a job as a cleaner where her favourite house to work in is owned by the rich and glamorous Harry and Sarah Summers.
When Sarah Summers commits suicide whilst on holiday in Barcelona, Harry falls to pieces and its Lily who pulls him back together. The pair fall in love in the process. Harry soon proposes, but before Lily can walk down the aisle she needs to find out why Harry’s seemingly happy first wife felt she had no option but to end her life. Lily travels to Barcelona and meets Jack, a New Zealander separated from his wife and teaching English in the city, who helps her discover the truth behind her fiancé’s former spouse.
Lily Button was an intensely engaging character: she’s rather naïve, but in a very charming way, I thought her struggles to fit in with her landlords’ busy family life were particularly well thought out. This family were a wonderful bunch of characters, and I liked how the author used them to help Lily develop, by showing how her confidence grows through living with them. It was the quality of Lily as the heroine that really made this book stand out for me: she was an enchanting individual and I was hooked on her tale straight away. My favourite part of the novel was probably towards the beginning when Lily was organising herself and deciding what to do with her life.
Unhappily, I felt Jack’s wife’s infidelity was a little over the top. I certainly had no sympathy for her and it coloured my feelings about Jack: how could he not have known what this woman was like? And I also didn’t at all agree with him travelling to the other side of the World and leaving his three young children for a year. Surely Lily would have disapproved of his actions in this regard, especially as she was abandoned by her own parents.
I would have liked a few more hints to have been thrown into the pot about Harry’s true nature, particularly in the way he treats Lily. It’s not until they’re in Barcelona that he shows his true colours in any sort of definite way.
Emily Barr took a risk with her latest protagonist, who certainly wasn’t a conventional heroine, but I really felt that it paid off. Lily kept me captivated and I was only anxious for the story to end so I could find out what happens to her. The plot becomes more and more exciting as the book progresses and the climax was definitely worth waiting for. Although I wasn’t enthralled by the male characters, I thoroughly enjoyed being kept guessing as to the outcome of Lily’s adventures.
3 and a half stars