Book Review - Satin Island

by Tom McCarthy (Jonathan Cape) ISBN: 9780224099349 

After C in 2010, Satin Island is the second Tom McCarthy novel to be shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. His work is often referred to as ‘avant garde’ which made me curious to read it. 

U. is an anthropologist who advises organisations how to narrate meaning around their service offering. In addition to working on one of his firm’s main projects, his boss has tasked him with creating The Great Report, ‘the First and Last Word on our age’. U. is flattered to be working on it but he’s also overwhelmed by its enormity. This leads him to procrastinate. He just creates folders filled with news and articles on such diverse topics as oil spills, buffering and crashing parachutists and philosophises on how these, and all other topics of our time, are connected. 

The novel seems to lack a clear plot and character development, but I was fascinated by U.’s research and his thoughts about it.  At times McCarthy writing has such a tangible quality that I could imagine a physical work of art based on U.’s ideas. I wasn’t surprised when I later read that McCarthy is also a visual artist. 

Josine Overdevest


Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. Writers Write - Write to communicate.