In the interest of full disclosure, Camino Island by John Grisham is not my normal type of read. But I was given a list of book suggestions this year and that was one of them. It seemed remotely interesting, dealing with rare manuscripts, antiquarian and collectible books, bookstores, and authors, so I gave it a go.
Boy do I regret that.
The very first thing I noticed was that it’s written in omnipotent third person, meaning the narrator knows everything about everything and what everyone is thinking. Or, in writing terms, there’s a lot of head hopping, which drove me absolutely insane. (Side note, I’ve been rejected for head hopping very early in my career, because I didn’t know better. Now I do, and it pains me that Grisham is as popular and rich as he is, by writing in a way acquisitions editors specifically told me not to. Le sigh.)
But it wasn’t just that. The story had a weird time hopping thing going on. In the chapter about Bruce’s backstory, we traveled about twenty years and back again, and I never knew exactly when the story was taking place. It was just some weird enigma of time that most definitely was after 1996.
Aside from the POV, my other biggest gripe is that so many little subplots were introduced–various writers on the island, the death of Mercer’s grandmother–that I expected to play a bigger role in the overall story, but that was simply not the case. They were there solely for the purpose of exposition and/or increasing word count. Say it with me y’all, that’s fluff.
Mercer was a bit whiny and indecisive. For such a pivotal part she played, I would have preferred her not to be so damn wishy-washy, but that might just be my own personal vendetta against mousy females. (I’ve tried writing them that way, I just can’t.)
Now, I’ve done nothing but complain, but the theft of the F. Scott Fitzgerald manuscripts from the Princeton library was interesting (if not hard to follow thanks to head-hopping). The random facts about collectible books and the misdeeds of famous American authors were awesome. There’s a lot of interesting stuff in here, but you’ve got to sift through the silt to find the gold.
Overall, it could have been worse, I mean, I didn’t throw it across the room, and I did finish it in less than a week. Unfortunately, it was a matter of finishing it so I could move onto better things. It was the first John Grisham book I’ve picked up, and will likely be the last. He’s just not my cup of tea. All the more power to you if he’s yours. I promise I won’t fight you for a copy on release day.