Summary and book reviews of Easter Island by Jennifer Vanderbes

Easter Island

By Jennifer Vanderbes

Easter Island
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  • Hardcover: Jun 2003,
    320 pages.
    Paperback: Jun 2004,
    320 pages.

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Book Summary

In this extraordinary fiction debut—rich with love and betrayal, history and intellectual passion—two remarkable narratives converge on Easter Island, one of the most remote places in the world.

It is 1913. Elsa Pendleton travels from England to Easter Island with her husband, an anthropologist sent by the Royal Geographical Society to study the colossal moai statues, and her younger sister. What begins as familial duty for Elsa becomes a grand adventure; on Easter Island she discovers her true calling. But, out of contact with the outside world, she is unaware that World War I has been declared and that a German naval squadron, fleeing the British across the South Pacific, is heading toward the island she now considers home.

Sixty years later, Dr. Greer Farraday, an American botanist, travels to Easter Island to research the island's ancient pollen, but more important, to put back the pieces of her life after the death of her husband.

A series of brilliant revelations brings to life the parallel quests of these two intrepid young women as they delve into the centuries-old mysteries of Easter Island. Slowly unearthing the island's haunting past, they are forced to confront turbulent discoveries about themselves and the people they love, changing their lives forever.

Easter Island is a tour de force of storytelling that will establish Jennifer Vanderbes as one of the most gifted writers of her generation.

Chapter 1

The decisive moment for Germany's fleet in the Great War was, indisputably, its ill-timed arrival at the Falkland Islands. Having avoided detection by the Allies for three months since the outbreak of hostilities, it was their great misfortune to head straight for the Falklands just hours after the British fleet put in to coal there. Had they borne in and launched an offensive, they would have caught the British in the disarray of refueling. Instead, and for unknown reasons, all eight ships, under the command of Vice Admiral Graf Von Spee, tried to flee. Compounding this fatal decision was atypical weather: Bright, cloudless sky hung overhead; there were neither the usual fog banks nor the low-lying squall clouds to afford even momentary concealment. The British, with their superior cruisers, were quick to pursue. From all sides gunfire bombarded the Germans. After three hours of battle, Von Spee's flagship, the Scharnhorst, turned over on her beam, heeled ...

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Introduction
Weaving together a pair of remarkable stories, debut novelist Jennifer Vanderbes explores the realms of love and anger, trust and betrayal, through the eyes of two exceptional young women living nearly a century apart who journey to the most remote island in the world—Easter Island. Though separated by time and circumstance, these women experience parallel turns of fate as their passions for knowledge draw them into all-consuming investigations of the island's mysterious past. But what begins as scientific inquiries soon unearth frightening, personal revelations for both women, and as they unravel the secrets of this exotic locale, they must face their own haunting secrets. A story about two journeys of ...
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Reviews

Media Reviews
Time Out (New York)

... weaves together history, science and romance, while maintaining an undercurrent of suspense.

St. Louis Post Dispatch

Captivating ... one of those impressive debut novels that come along once a year ... and demands that readers take notice of its existence.

The Christian Science Monitor

A gorgeous debut.

Newsday - Dan Cryer

Intelligently conceived and elegantly written ... combines gripping traditional storytelling with scientist-explorer protagonists ... makes the quest for scientific breakthroughs both exciting and all too human.

People Magazine

Critics Choice. ... a rich and worldy first novel. Bottom line Glorious.

The San Francisco Chronicle

Exquisitely imagined ... one of those rare novels that appeals equally to mind, heart, and soul.

The Washington Post - Heather Hewett

... exemplifies the continuing appeal of the historical-fiction genre to young, talented writers. An engrossing blend of adventure, romance and mystery.

Fort Worth Star - Telegran

... a beautiful story, a journey of mystery and surprise that readers will want to take again and again.

Publishers Weekly

Like the overcast skies of Easter Island, this impressive debut is rich in shades of gray meteorological, scientific, intellectual and emotional.

Kirkus Reviews

Impressively researched, persuasively detailed a first novel destined to become a reading club favorite.

Booklist - Marta Segal

This historical novel deftly combines romance, warfare, and science for the rationalist and romantic alike.

The Times (London)

... brilliant ... this novel is an impressive, strikingly carved feat.

The Sunday Telegraph (UK)

...an ambitious undertaking, triumphantly achieved.

Author Blurb Robert Stone - author of Dog Soldiers
One of the best novels of the year.

Author Blurb Andrea Barrett - author of Servants of the Map
Splendid ... captures in the intertwined stories of two women a passion for life and for science that transcends time.

Reader Reviews
Portland Reading Group

Unanimous--Book Group liked this book
Our Portland reading group read this book, and enjoyed it. We found this was a book of desolate people on a desolate island. So many facets--scientific, intellectual, romantic, lyrical, historical. Incredible narrative.

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