Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane

I am a wannabe nerd. In keeping with this ambition, I watch Jeopardy on a regular basis with an enthusiasm that would only be reserved, for most people, for an exciting sporting event. I am not very good at the game, but there are certain categories that I fair better at than others. On a show last month, the category was “They Turned My Book Into a Movie.” I knew the first four answers (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, The Spy Who Loved Me, Gone With the Wind, World War Z). The last answer was Shutter Island and Mystic River. I had seen (almost*) both these movies, but no idea that they were adapted from books, let alone who wrote them. A contestant buzzed in and pat came the reply, “Who is Dennis Lehane?” Color me impressed! Shutter Island and Dennis Lehane went on my must-read list.

The novel opens with Teddy Daniels, a US Marshall, who has been sent to Ashecliff Hospital for the criminally insane on Shutter Island, to solve the mystery of a missing patient. Rachel Solando, a patient and murderer, has simply vanished from her room one night. Teddy and his new partner, Chuck, reach the island and meet with the officials. While the authorities support the marshalls in most of their endeavors in solving the mystery, Teddy and Chuck also sense a lot of resistance. Not only is the disappearance of Rachel a little extraordinary, but the hospital itself seems to be teeming with secrets. Moreover, Teddy is fighting his own ghosts. He is still mourning his wife, who died in a building fire. Teddy knows that the man who set fire to the building, Laeddis, is currently at Ashecliff, and Teddy has his own ulterior motives for being on the case.

If there was a ride in Disney World called Testosterone, this book would be read out loud as background music. The novel is chock-full of manliness. That a majority of its characters are men, is obviously one reason, but also because the way these men speak to each other, their jokes, their priorities, their professions – it’s men, manly men. And there’s a lot to love about that. I loved the way the men spoke to one another. Chuck is a delightful side-kick to Teddy, and easily one of my favorite characters in the novel. The camaraderie that the two share is something some of us instantly recognize when we happen to meet someone with whom we just connect. There are parts when Teddy recalls his love for his dead wife, Dolores. And these sections are so poignant, that it makes you want to go love a man (if you like men, that is).

I am not sure, however, about how effective the ending really is (check footnote). The third part of the book started to come apart at the seams a little for me. But, yet, I thoroughly enjoyed this roller coaster, testosterone-y ride.

*Here’s the thing about the movie. I half watched it when it first came out on DVD. The story is right up my alley, but for some reason I ignored most of what was happening on screen and couldn’t recollect it later. This made reading the book much more interesting because although I had an inclination of what the ending was, for the most part, I was ready to pretend like I did not.
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3 Responses to Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane

  1. Makarand kulkarni says:

    Sampada, I couldn’t resist when you posted about Shutter Island. I’ve watched it so many times that some times I wake up as Laddies

    I didn’t get your point – are you saying book ending was better. I refuse. Remember the last line when Daniel Laddies is finally taken for lobotomy after giving eye signal by Dr Sheen? He says – I don’t know if it’s worth living life with your burden or die with ignorance

    (Pardon me if I missed the words)

    That impact, that slight drum, that slight eye contacts, I can’t get from book. May be you are a future director so can visualize better 😉

    BTW, have you read The Red Dragon? You can compare it with movie, the character of Dolarhyde is too identical to that in book

    • Sampada says:

      Makarand, I wasn’t really comparing the book to the movie at all. I was only talking about the last part of the book being a little ineffective (compared to the rest of the book). In the third section, I got a little bored.

      As far as the ending is concerned, I did like the ambiguity of the book, compared to the finality of the movie. It’s a matter of perspective though, and I understand if you preferred the movie ending over the book.

      I haven’t read The Red Dragon. I like Silence of the Lambs so much, I’m worried that reading anything else by Harris will ruin that experience. Do you think otherwise?

  2. Pingback: John Grisham’s A Time to Kill | Sémantique

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