Genre: Crime, Madness
Synopsis: Teddy Daniels has arrived on Shutter Island with his partner to investigate the disappearance of one of the patients. From the very beginning, things don’t seem quite right to Teddy who already has suspicions about what goes on at the hospital. Things are definitely not as they seem but is it Teddy who is delusional or the hospital that is keeping secrets from him.
I had already seen the film of Shutter Island but it was so affecting that when I realised that it was based on a novel, I was excited to read it even though I knew what the ending was. I do wish that I could have read it blind but I suppose it would be similar to my feelings at the end of the film. Watching the film, I was completely taken in by Teddy and was absolutely shocked when it turns out that he is the lost patient. Reading the book, I was not taken in in the same way but there was a new delight to be had; spotting the clues that Lehane gives to the reader about the true nature of Teddy’s character.
The style of writing was almost typical crime writing with a certain detachment from the subject matter. And at first, Teddy seems like a typical crime fighter – all macho, having seen things in the war that no one should see. However, as the novel progresses, he becomes both more paranoid and more emotional. He starts to lose his grip on reality. If you were reading this without knowledge of the film then it would be perfectly easy to be led along by his decline – to believe that he has stumbled across some great conspiracy. Lehane makes us believe in Teddy that much. Having seen the film, I felt I was a bit less involved than I might have been but this is in no way Lehane’s fault.
The ending is just as affecting even though I knew what was coming. Teddy slowly comes to the realisation that he is the one who has killed his wife and his is the lost patient. The hospital have taken a huge risk – taking him off his medication – in order to try and force him to see the truth. If Teddy cannot face reality then he will be lobotomized – something his doctors do not want. The flicker of hope that the reader feels when Teddy acknowledges his crime is quickly extinguished when in the final chapter, he is back in his delusion and he can see the porters coming to take him away.
The ending of the novel raises the question of how to deal with patients like Teddy. Even though he killed his wife, I felt a great deal of sympathy for him. His elaborate fantasy was due to his inability to accept what he had done, not only to his wife but what he allowed to happen to his children as well. His sense of self was destroyed by the crime. So he could spend the rest of his life in his delusion or he could be lobotomised. Neither option offers much hope.