Book Review | A Prison in the Sun by Isobel Blackthorn

Book Description

After millennial ghostwriter Trevor Moore rents an old farmhouse in Fuerteventura, he moves in to find his muse.

Instead, he discovers a rucksack filled with cash. Who does it belong to – and should he hand it in… or keep it?

Struggling to make up his mind, Trevor unravels the harrowing true story of a little-known concentration camp that incarcerated gay men in the 1950s and 60s.

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My Review

Rating: Mention *

* This is a new rating system I have adopted for my blog. If you click on the rating, you can learn about what it means.

A Prison in the Sun is the most brilliant book I have read in a long time. Getting through it was unbelievable hard and to put it simply, I was not too fond of the story the whole way through. I felt that perhaps the style of writing was not for me. BUT, after I finished it and was reflecting, I had an epiphany, and everything about the prose and the story made sense. It was at this point that I realized how brilliant the novel is. So this review will be a bit different. I am going to try and provide the two pieces I feel are necessary to understand and appreciate the story from page 1, and I am going to try and do it without any spoilers because this story is worth it.

Two Important Aspects To Understand

To start with, I would classify A Prison in the Sun as a psychological thriller mystery. I have not seen that label given to it anywhere, but it is an important distinction that sets the way you look at it from the beginning. One of the hardest parts of reading and understanding the novel is that the story has an unreliable narrator, so, as with any tale that has an unreliable narrator, you need to be looking at character reactions and things that seem coincidental with a stronger microscope.

Next, you need to know something about James Joyce and, particularly, his story entitled Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man. In this work, Joyce uses literary devices such as stream of consciousness, interior monologue, and references to a character’s psychic reality rather than to his actual surroundings. Trevor Moore, the main character, also employs these techniques when narrating his story. He, like Joyce, will take events that the reader does not want to know about, and talk about them often and in great detail. That is the aspect of Joyce’s writing style that I remember most from Portrait. I wouldn’t say I liked it back in college when professors tried to convince me it was brilliant, and I was not too fond of it again in this story. Plus, I find stream of consciousness always hard to read. It can be hard enough for me to be in my own head, much less be in someone else’s – I find it very hard to follow.

More of My Thoughts

The story that Trevor is writing based on notes he found is hard for me to read but very beautifully written. There isn’t a happy ending where concentration camps are concerned – ever. It’s just immeasurably sad, incomprehensibly horrid, and a lot for my empathetic soul to take in and process.

I enjoyed the mystery of the bag found in the cave most of all. That particular plotline kept the pages turning for me, even as I struggled with other aspects of the narrative. It is the element that drew me into the story by fascinating me and setting into motion the thrills and action that I crave.

To Read or Not to Read

As I said before, this story is brilliant, but you do have to do the work to see the brilliance. If you are willing to do that – A Prison in the Sun is a perfect read for you!

About the Author

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Isobel Blackthorn is an award-winning author of unique and engaging fiction. She writes dark psychological thrillers, mysteries, and contemporary and literary fiction. Isobel was shortlisted for the Ada Cambridge Prose Prize 2019 for her biographical short story, ‘Nothing to Declare’. The Legacy of Old Gran Parks is the winner of the Raven Awards 2019. Isobel holds a PhD from the University of Western Sydney, for her research on the works of Theosophist Alice A. Bailey, the ‘Mother of the New Age.’ She is the author of The Unlikely Occultist: a biographical novel of Alice A. Bailey.

4 Replies to “Book Review | A Prison in the Sun by Isobel Blackthorn”

  1. I don’t think I could read this one, but your review was excellent. I like the way you examined the novel and the style of writing.
    Wishing the author all the best with her release!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! It’s not an easy read for sure. Definitely out of my norm. It took me back to my undergrad days full of classic literature 😊

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you so much, Tessa, for your warm and thoughtful review. It was a very challenging and confronting book to write. Best wishes, Isobel 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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