EASTER ISLAND by Jennifer Vanderbes

Reviewed by Janet Lan of Friday Morning Book Group

Easter Island (November 18, 2004) Easter Island is a galloping story with multiple themes of adventure and betrayal, geography and botany, exploration and discovery. Throw into the plot blind love and protective love, the rights of women and the mentally ill and the attempt to decipher rongorongo, the early written script of the Easter Islanders. Now add sexism, university politics and a little history of the First World War. As if this were not enough it is also a mystery story on many levels including human mystery, mystery of the Easter Island moai statues and the natural disaster that apparently decimated the vegetation of the island.

The novel is lyrically written and expertly researched and we were surprised to learn that the author did not have a scientific background herself. Vanderbes even makes botanical Latin names sound poetic. What a pleasure it was to read a book with such beautiful, elegant language.

Our group discussed whether sexism at Harvard in the 70's was indeed as bad as depicted in the book and the importance of fathers or father figures in encouraging the careers of the two protagonist women. The story is told through the eyes of these women who were separated by 60 years and whose lives were seamlessly connected. We were interested in the nature of the mental illness of one of the characters and the motivations of her sister. Some book group members felt certain aspects of the story were unbelievable and that maybe there were just too many themes for one novel.

Overall, the Friday Morning Book Group enjoyed this lively first novel and at least one of us hopes to visit Easter Island, an isolated remarkable place.

FROM THE EDITORS: Find reviews contributed by other local book clubs at: www.larchmontgazette.com. We'd love to hear from other Larchmont book clubs and readers; email us at publisher@larchmontgazette.com.

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