Book Review: “Satin Island” by Tom McCarthy


Shortlisted for the Man Booker prize, “Satin Island” is an unconventional novel by Tom McCarthy. The main character U. is a corporate anthropologist tasked with documenting the modern day era. This proves to be a nearly impossible task, and U. finds himself overwhelmed by the amount of information he must organize. U. obsessively puzzles over everything from failed parachutists to oil spills, all the while trying to make sense of his own personal life.


This book mostly follows U. exploring his seemingly random interests. At times, his ruminations bring moments of brilliant clarity and enlightenment to aspects of life we may never have thought about. For example, U. obsesses over oil spills and has the epiphany that it’s a putsch in the works, and the sea has been usurped by the oil and packed off into exile. Yet other times, the lack of a conventional plot line and actual events in the story may bore readers. If you love reading books filled with trails of thought and personal discoveries about life and all it entails, this book is definitely for you, but if not, you may want to give it a pass.


Best: I actually enjoy seeing U. sipping Evian while unravelling the meaning of life — he’s ostentatious in the best way possible. The prose is easy to read, and it’s easy to get hooked in his travels from one city to another, judging everyone he meets and questioning every breath that he takes. However, I do admit that U.’s peculiar “quirks” are an acquired taste, and “not necessarily in an endearing way” (as Mudmee added). This book might not be for everyone, but on that note, I think it is through U.’s detached self that the book serves as a sentimental reminder of what overthinking things can do to you. 8/10

Mudmee: I personally found this book so-so. It’s very different from any novels I’ve read prior. I enjoyed reading some of the thoughts and small epiphanies that U. finds in his obsessive research. However, I enjoy reading novels with more of a concrete plotline, so I was rather bored at times reading this book. I’d say if you’re unsure whether you’ll like this book, you should give it a shot. 6/10