Islands of Silence is the story of the young Alec Marquand, who in the summer of 1914 has just graduated from college with a degree in archaeology. He has been hired by the lord of a remote country estate in the Scottish Highlands to survey the ancient Stone Age brochs that lie on his property.
Once there Alec comes upon a small island which is called Eilean Tosdach--the Island of Silence. What Alec discovers on that island changes him forever. And just as Alec makes his amazing find, he is shipped off to war . . . a war he does not want to fight, but one in which he ends up as a medic aboard a ship ready to storm the beaches of Gallipoli.
A brilliantly crafted novel in the tradition of All's Quiet on the Western Front and The Ghost Road, Islands of Silence is a tour through one man's hell in search of a path for redemption.
Booth (Industry of Souls; Hiroshima Joe; etc.) offers a dreamy allegory of lost innocence in this novel about a young British archeologist who loses a chance at love when he's forced to serve in WWI. Alec Marquand is an old man, lying dying in a hospital; he barely moves and has not spoken a word in years, but his vivid memories are full of passion, intrigue and confrontation. He begins his career mapping Stone Age "brochs" on a remote Scottish island. There, he encounters a beautiful, otherworldly young woman, part mystical vision, part flesh and blood. Marquand is entranced by her innocence she seems oddly brazen and unashamed of her nakedness. Though she doesn't speak and he knows nothing about her, they develop a sort of rapport, and she allows him to sketch her. Their unorthodox relationship is interrupted by his stepfather, a former colonel, who offers the young man a commission as the war with Germany approaches. Marquand refuses the commission, and the colonel has him imprisoned for refusing to serve. After doing time, Marquand endures a grueling tour of duty as a military medic. When he returns to the island, he catches only one more glimpse of the woman before she vanishes forever. Booth is a skilled storyteller, especially in the early chapters, when he brings Marquand's ghostly would-be lover to life. Marquand's effort to warm himself decades later with the memory of the unconsummated affair while trying to forget the horrors of war is moving as well. Not everyone will appreciate the mystical conceit, but readers who do will find this a solidly written, engaging tale.