Rosie Reviews: Satin Island by Tom McCarthy

Satin Island

Title: Satin Island

Author: Tom McCarthy

Publisher: Jonathan Cape

Genre: Literary Fiction

Source: Ebook from NetGalley



I am going to have to say, right off the bat, that I really struggled to read this book. It took me the better half of a month to get through and reaching the end was more of a relief than anything else. I really don’t like giving negative reviews, but this book, as much as it pains me to say it, was not my cup of tea. That being said, maybe if I had more of an idea what to expect, I would have enjoyed it more but, as it is, I went in mostly blind so what I ended up reading was very different to what I had imagined the book to be like.

Writing this review now, I’m still not entirely sure what the book is about. I know it follows the character U (yes, that is what he’s called), an anthropologist who works for the elusive Company, as he is tasked with writing some big project plan that could define the era but, ultimately, ends up procrastinating.


Not much happens in this book. McCarthy makes this clear from the very beginning, even telling the reader to go elsewhere if they want events. Mostly, Satin Island is a train of thought, following U as he finds himself distracted by one thought and then another, trying to find connections between everything while also trying to come up with ideas for a task about something he knows very little about. As a result, there did not really seem to be much focus at all. I think I would have enjoyed it more had a few of his thoughts led somewhere, or they played more of a part in the novel. As it is, the most interesting part of the book, I found, were the bits about the parachute being cut.


Another reason I found this book so difficult to read was that there was no emotional connection with the main character, or any other character for that matter. U is in a relationship with a woman yet treats it in a very clinical manner, giving the reader only a sparse insight that they are together and not indicating any emotional depth for the reader to get their claws into. While this may have been the point of the book, as it is more of a lyrical analysis of the world than a character or plot-driven plot, it is not really a style which works for me.


Satin Island is based in the modern world. It starts off in an airport, and airport which keeps being brought up throughout the novel and is a source of mystery in relation to the girlfriend for U. The Company is also quite a menacing presence, being the instigator of U’s thought-filled ramblings as he attempts to complete is write-up for them. I do wish there had been more about this mysterious project and about the Company’s plans as that might have captured my interest just a little bit more.

Final thoughts

Unfortunately, I did not enjoy this book. There was not enough plot or character depth for my liking, so I found it difficult to get fully invested in the novel. I got the sense, from time to time, of it being written by someone waiting for a plane – an image triggered, perhaps, from the first scene of the book, but continued to permeate throughout. That being said, the use of language is fascinating and the writing evokes some really interesting images throughout the book. If you are interested in this book, please give it a go. I’m glad I got a chance to read it, it’s just a shame I didn’t enjoy it as much as I hoped I would. Some books just aren’t for everyone.

Rating: 2/5


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