Becky’s One Hundred and Sixtieth Book Review: “Shutter Island” by Dennis Lehane

I had no idea that the movie Shutter Island was based off of a book when I first saw it. I have watched this movie time and again and it was only by accident that I found out that it was based off of a book. Of course as soon as I found out I put “Shutter Island” by Dennis Lehane on hold at the library. It was a very quick, entertaining read and I was surprised at how much of the content of the book was preserved during the movie.

I liked Dennis Lehane’s writing style, there was nothing overly complicated about it but there was enough drama and mystery to keep me turning the pages. On the very first page I knew that I was going to enjoy the way the book was written once I got to this quote: “…time is nothing to me but a series of bookmarks that I use to jump back and forth through the text of my life, returning again and again to the events that mark me, in the eyes of my more astute colleagues, as bearing all the characteristics of the classic melancholic” (Shutter Island, pg 1). There were multiple times throughout my reading of “Shutter Island” that I was impressed by the writing and the thoughts and images that it conjured up in my mind.

“Shutter Island” follows U.S. Marshall Teddy Daniels on an investigation in the middle of nowhere. Teddy Daniels and his new partner Chuck have been brought to Shutter Island to investigate into the disappearance of a mental patient, Rachel Solando. Right from the beginning, the Marshalls can tell that something odd is happening on Shutter Island. Their visit is extended unexpectedly when a hurricane strikes and forces those on the island to be completely isolated from the rest of the world. Strange things continue to happen on the island. And the longer that the Marshalls are there, the more the reader is able to get to know them, especially Teddy Daniels, the narrator whom we quickly learn is a widower. I don’t want to give everything away though, so I’ll be vague.

At one point, Daniels is talking about fighting in WWII and how you come back from that, how you get married and raise a family and try to get them to understand what it was like over there. “Answer is – You can’t tell ‘em. They’ll never understand. Because what you did was for the right reason. But what you did was also wrong. And you’ll never wash it off.” (Shutter Island, pg 145). I really liked this quote. It’s harsh, and it’s honest. Beyond the war, Teddy Daniels also spent a lot of time talking about his dead wife and the love that they shared.

The way that Dennis Lehane writes about love in “Shutter Island” was heartbreaking. When Teddy Daniels lost his wife, he lost all the light in his life. The way that he describes the love that he felt for her was really wonderful. “…and he wanted to ask her what sound a heart made when it broke from pleasure, when just the sight of someone filled you the way food, blood, and air never could, when you felt as if you’d been born for only one moment, and this, for whatever reason, was it.” (Shutter Island, pg 242). The passion that he felt for his wife is so clearly displayed throughout the book during flashbacks and retelling of tales for his partner.

Would I recommend this book? Yes, I thought it was a pretty good read although it wasn’t extraordinary. I will probably pick up another of Dennis Lehane’s work to see if I enjoy it better when I do not know the ending. That is the big downside to seeing the movie first. This is probably one of the few situations where I think the movie came out better. But I do think that Dennis Lehane is an exceptional writer, I look forward to reading some more of his work.

Would I recommend the movie this book is based off of? Yes, most definitely. It is a great movie. It’s a little long, but is so thrilling and mysterious that you cannot help but sit and watch the whole thing.


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