The Tenth Island by Diana Marcum
Updated: Feb 14
Summary: Diana is a journalist who stumbles upon the little known Azores Islands while researching a story. During the course of several visits to the islands, she learns a lot about the people, culture, and herself.
Review: I'm fairly certain that my educational experience was extremely lacking in the geography department. Sure, we had to memorize the names and capitals of many countries across the globe, but I had never even heard of the Azores before this book. (I also had to do a brain sweep - that took longer than I'm willing to admit - to remember where Portugal is located.) Nevertheless, I was very interested in learning more about these mysterious volcanic islands and the people that live there.
What I liked about The Tenth Island was that it was a personal account of Diana's experiences in discovering the islands. It gives a wonderful sense of what it is like to find yourself fully immersed in a new culture, making friends, and learning traditions through beautiful narrative and storytelling. Her descriptions really brought lush green and blue images to the mind to where you could almost hear the ocean (like an ebook seashell).
What I didn't like about The Tenth Island was that it was a personal account of Diana's experiences in discovering the islands. While it did have its merits with providing information in more than just facts and figures, it also had its limitations. For one, Diana returned to the islands three times, with gaps in between. (The gap between trip two and three was seven years. How do you remember anything from seven years ago?) While she graciously skipped over most of what occurred during these gaps, there were times when the story seemed to skid off the tracks and go down a Diana lane. These were thrown in pieces that really had nothing to do with the island. ("Oh, let me just throw in a chapter here about this guy I thought was cute once. Okay, now back to the island.") She also threw in some of her personal theories which were kind of cute, but sometimes didn't really fit.
The biggest issue I had with it being a personal account was that it reminded me a bit too much of my main criticism of Eat Pray Love and The Lost Continent: Sure, take a year off of work and go, for free, anywhere you want without feeling any need to learn the language or anything. It just blows my mind that someone wouldn't want to try to at least learn a little bit of the language where they plan to spend numerous months. (I also got weirded out by how people just let you stay in their house for months, no charge. Even when it's something like Airbnb, it creeps me out that you're in someone's home...with their stuff...in their beds...eating off their plates. I just couldn't do it. It gives me the willies just thinking about it.)
Speaking of strangers, there were also many times when I struggled to keep track of people who were glazed over, or thrown in as though they may be important but only appear for a sentence many chapters later, or worse, never mentioned again. I almost needed a list of who was who.
Don't get me wrong, I did really enjoy many of the stories and people introduced in this book. (Hence four stars.) I have not traveled much thus far in my life, but if I ever have the chance, I'd now love to visit the islands. Marcum brought the islands to life in her narrative and stories that took place there. However, I often felt like I wasn't sure where the book was going or how the tenth island theory worked in as it was briefly described once, hinted at a few more times, and ended with as though it was a continuous main theme. It just didn't feel tied together in the end.
Overall, it was interesting but left me wanting to know more (about the islands) and less (about Diana).