You know when you read a bunch of books by a fabulous author and you hit that one novel that just doesn't measure up to the rest? Coastliners is French author Joanne Harris' lackluster effort.
Coastliners is the story of the inhabitants of an island in France called Le Devine. The island is sharply divided between two villages. The village of La Houssiniere is prosperous, modern and located on the side of the island with a nice beach that attracts tourism. By contrast, the village of Les Salants is poor and filled with residents who keep with more traditional island ways. Les Salants pushes to change their luck, when a young woman named Madeline returns home to the island after living in Paris and motivates the villagers to work towards bringing tourism to their side of the island.
Coastliners is good on a technical level. Harris is a very adept writer and often writes absolutely beautiful and very sensory passages.
The problem with Coastliners is it simply isn't very interesting. I found it difficult to connect to the characters and their plight. The main character, Madeline, has a very vanilla personality. In fact, none of the characters were very memorable.
The pacing is very slow and in the last fifty-odd pages there are so many plot twists that it feels very contrived. The last bit of the novel played out like a mystery with a lot of "A-ha" and "But wait a minute" moments. The story is essentially a drama and the melodramatic ending was out of place and unnecessary.
The story has a cold tone to it. The island is a character in the story and I felt like as a reader I was supposed to care about this island that the inhabitants hold so dear. However, this is definitely not an island that I would want to visit. Ultimately, the island is the main character and Harris did not endear me to it, making me feel distant from the entire story.
Harris is a really wonderful author and absolutely worth reading. However, Coastliners is not the finest example of her talents and I can't recommend it.