*warning: these questions and answers contain spoilers
Q. Is this a novel about nature vs. nurture?
A. No. Janine has neither of those on her side. If one must reduce it to such simple terms, it’s a novel about predestination vs. free will.
Q. Is Janine a reliable narrator?
A. I think Janine sums up her position best when she begins telling the story of her great-great-grandfather Harry:
…surely I can hear, through the helix of our shared DNA, the rumble of his mind?
An echo of the surging Thames? Or is the beating of my own blood?
As a means of divining history, how reliable does that sound?
Janine is in possession of some facts about her family history, and is filling in the gaps according to her own prejudices and preconceptions – in other words, she’s human. More importantly, she is playing with the reader’s ability to anticipate what’s going to happen next, setting the story out like a Snakes and Ladders board, guiding the reader along what seem to be familiar paths and then twisting those paths in different directions.
Q. Why is Janine so hard on Maggie?
A. It’s worth remembering who is telling the story. Who makes us think that Janine is hard on Maggie? Janine does. She’s always looking for the worst in
her own actions.
Q. Where did the idea for the island come from?
A. From a real island I visited as a child, at the other end of the country.
You can read a short piece I wrote about it for The Press here.