This book, for me at least started off quite slow. I found it hard to get into and wondered if in fact I had made a mistake buying it in the first place. But as I read on and my left hand filled with pages, a shiver and dark cloud seemed to hang over me each time I re-opened after the shortest of breaks.
I live in Australia, having emigrated from England some years ago and the trouble with spending endless days in the sunshine is that you forget what its like to stand on a windswept island (not that I stood around in the rain a lot anyway) with the cold cutting into your face, digging freezing hands into shallow pockets, knowing they’re not going to get any warmer no matter how far you push them in (so there is no confusion Pig Island is off the west coast of Scotland).
This is what I started to like about the book. Mo Hayder has really caught the atmosphere of the island, so much so that you feel as if you’re standing right beside the main character Joe Oakes (Oaksey to his wife, who we’ll get to soon) close enough to feel his fears along with the indecisions he may be having. You can imagine yourself in a pub way off the tourist track with strange patrons while keeping an eye on the door so that you can make a run for it if need be. But first and foremost Joe is a journalist. His pushy personality is perfect for getting into the minds and on the nerves of the local inhabitants of the chilly Pig Island who, have been subjected to whispers and behind the back taunts from people on the mainland, linking them to acts of witchcraft and satanism. Joe is a big man and a self proclaimed debunker of all things ritualistic, but he soon realises that maybe this little island holds more secrets than he first thought and his usually granite stature is finally starting to crumble. Why is Joe on the island in the first place you may be wondering, well don’t despair I am getting there. Joe’s connection to the place goes back many years to a time when he and his cousin finn wanted to take on the world, but fins mother being diagnosed with cancer put a stop to all of that. She’s forcefed natural healing techniques as a way of combating the disease by a so called faith healer who she ends up going to see in the USA. These techniques in a nutshell mean no medical help whatsoever and being catholic these terms seem to suit her own beliefs. Not long after her return home from the states she dies in terrible pain. This is what sets joe off on a crusade (alone now after his cousins priorities change) to bring the faith healer Malachi Dove to ground once and for all. There is also an incident with a chickens liver that makes it extra personal for Joe. The book also introduces Lexie, Joe’s wife, a woman who I didn’t know whether to hate or feel sorry for. She has her own agenda which takes your mind off everything else that is going on and before you realise whats happened she’s pulled you into her little world and refuses to let you go.
You’ve probably done it yourself before when reading a good book. The house is quiet, its dark outside and you know exactly how the story’s going to end. You sit there thinking you know more than the author and who’s going to end up smelling of roses and I have to admit I sat there doing it myself, thinking I was a clever little man only to have egg splattered all over a smug face when the final page had been read. This is a book of feelings, it makes you feel cold, it makes you feel depressed, it makes you feel alone, the weather is always dull and there’s nothing about reading it that makes you smile. But what it did for me was question how I look at people and if from now on I should be looking at them a bit differently. Finally, if your wondering through a book shop or around a market and you come across a copy of Pig Island, pick it up, you just might enjoy it.