The Island of the World is like a fantastic book combined with a so-so book, resulting in a four-star book that is about 300 pages too long.
Allow me to explain.
I am not against books that top out over 900 pages, but you have to earn that length. At points, this book is exceptional. As a piece of historical fiction about the Balkans, and as a lyrically written story of how a boy’s life is irrevocably impacted by the circumstance of his birth in that region in the 1900s. I thought the story was amazing, with exceptional attention to detail that never felt overwhelming.
The book also contains vast passages of didactic conversations that don’t advance the plot, minor characters that don’t really go anywhere, and meandering subplots that don’t serve the story. The book would have been much, much better without those sections.
That said, I really did enjoy The Island of the World, and would recommend it if you don’t mind plodding through or skimming the unnecessary portions. I especially recommend it if you are interested in the Balkans or don’t know much about that part of the world. This book greatly expanded my understanding of that region.
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