A book in small doses – Satin Island by Tom McCarthy

Book Reviews, Book Thoughts, Uncategorized


Charged with producing a definitive piece of work to capture a zeitgeist, U spends his time in the bowels of a huge company chasing red herrings down sheep paths. His anthropology interests span everything as he tries to find meaning though isn’t quite sure what it is he’s looking for. And what emerges is what we read…

This book is very clever, but not at the expense of readability. I found myself enjoying what read almost like an issue of the National Geographic plus an antagonist and a storyline attempting to draw parallels between things. And at the same time it made some interesting points about the time we live in – as well as highlighting the impossibility of doing so.

The world is our world, if a bit fuzzy around the edges. Part of U’s charm is his role as an observer sets him apart from what essentially is his world: he must study it but continue to exist within it. Our focus is his; the things he does not study or thing of are vague and blurry, but the specific events detailed and considered.

Despite U’s quest for meaning being terrifically post-modern, the book is somehow still appealing rather than cold. The random information he trawls through is interesting in itself, and though U’s mental wanderings are ridiculous, I found myself fond of him for it rather than frustrated.

He dreams of being hailed as a great anthropologist, but fears he doesn’t know what he is looking for. He is intimidated by his own earlier success, and the pressure of trying to match it. He, like perhaps most people, feels inadequate – especially in trying to find meaning in the vast array of data and information that we have access to in this time, and to process and respond to it in a way that feels adequate.

The links and meanings he produces are dubious at best; but I think this is rather the point. The book seems to signal a uselessness in trying to make sense of anything: but manages to do so without despair.

As a technical point, as it is presented as U’s finished study, chapters (or sections) are short and numbered, which greatly enhanced their readability, especially with a book that was more dense than standard fiction.

I found myself really enjoying this book despite it being fairly thoughtful and intellectual, and was pleased to have read it. I don’t pretend to have totally understood (or remembered…) it but certainly recommend it as a thoughtful read!

Thank you so much to the publishers and to Netgalley for the ARC, I very much enjoyed myself.

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