The Far Side of the Sun is the seventh novel written by Kate Furnivall, and thus far her novels have fuelled our desire for the unknown with their exotic settings. The Far Side of the Sun is no exception, its breath taking descriptions leave you aching for some of that deep salty air and sultry heat. The language has a quality that is both captivating and elusive simultaneously, the words at times almost seem to glide through the air, hooking you as they pass. At the same time, there is a heaviness to the narrative, letting you see into the shadows behind the characters eyes. It is a credit to the author that she manages to merge this elusiveness and weightiness effortlessly in her writing, so you are borne along with the narrative without being borne down by it.
The narrative is split to encompass the perspective of the young outsider, Dodie Wyatt and the wealthy diplomat’s wife Ella Stanford; the effect of this is to draw the island together. The narrative is constantly bringing more people into the fold of the plot which adds to the intensity of the story as well as the island sense of community, particularly a community of friendship between women. Throughout the novel there are constant little asides pointing to the way that women are helping each other out behind the scenes of the male dominated politics, with the women making the real difference to the island.
What I particularly enjoyed about the novel was the inspiration behind it. In the afterword Kate Furnivall explains how she came across the unsolved mystery of ‘Who Killed Sir Harry Oakes?’ One of the richest men in the world who was brutally murdered in Nassau in the Bahamas, she researched it by reading the non-fiction book Who Killed Sir Harry Oakes?, by James Leasor and whatever titbits from newspapers she could gather together. What is interesting is the way that Kate Furnivall integrated the lives of women into this mystery, writing them into the pages of Bahamas history. It sometimes feels as if the feminist agenda is being pushed on the readers a tiny bit too much, as if a woman is perpetually hanging over the narrative, gazing mistily into the distance ruing the day she was born a woman. Having said that, female passion is depicted very well in the novel; the text is very clear in keeping child-bearing away from the sex, thus revelling in female passion for the pure sake of passion; saying that women deserve and desire passion in their lives. The novel may be historical fiction set in the Bahamas, but Furnivall’s resounding message is that women matter, a lesson that still needs taking to heart today.