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John Dollar by Marianne Wiggins
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John Dollar (1989)

by Marianne Wiggins

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268665,719 (3.49)16
Charlotte Lewes, a young Briton newly widowed by the Great War, departs for colonial Burma in 1917 to escape the ruins of her life. As a schoolteacher in Rangoon she is rejuvenated by the sensuous Oriental climate, and she meets John Dollar, a sailor who becomes her passionate love and whose ill-fated destiny inextricably binds her to him. On a festive seafaring expedition, the tightly knit British community confronts disaster in the shape of an earthquake and ensuing tidal wave. Swept overboard, Charlotte, John Dollar, and eight young girls who are Charlotte's pupils awake on a remote island beach. As they struggle to stay alive, their dependence on John overwhelms him, and an atmosphere of menace and doom builds, culminating in shocking and riveting scenes of both death and survival.… (more)

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Showing 1-5 of 6 (next | show all)
Wiggins is a skilled writer and storyteller. I enjoyed the book enough that I couldn't put it down the night I finished it, despite knowing that it would give me nightmares. Comparisons to Lord of the Flies are inevitable, but it is its own work. Other reviewers have complained of being bored or confused by the first half. I felt the first half established her writing prowess, and overall, I consider this book to be creepy, moralistic fun ( )
1 vote mpho3 | Feb 6, 2011 |
To say this was a disappointing book doesn't even come close to articulating the real heartbreak I felt finishing it. Painted as a female answer to Golding's Lord of the Flies, John Dollar describes the days after eight girls, one woman, and one man are washed ashore on a deserted island off Burma.

Writing this review was more challenging than I expected, and I decided to do some quick searching for other thoughts on this novel to see if I was missing some subtle but crucial element. What I discovered quickly is that the release of John Dollar was almost completely overshadowed by a more momentous literary story: the call for death of Wiggins' then-husband, Salman Rushdie.

In some ways, I feel like this book is constantly being overshadowed by something more momentous. Wiggins herself seems to be unsure if she is writing an homage to Lord of the Flies or an entirely inventive examination of human nature. (In an interview, Wiggins admits that the landscape she visualized while writing was actually the same scenery from the 1963 film version.)

Almost two-thirds of the book is spent setting us up for the coming Shock and Awe. Charlotte, the schoolteacher, is properly liberal and free-thinking enough to gain our sympathy; the various children represent all the stock characters needed for an examination of colonial life: the zealot, the symbiotic twins, the indigenous servant. John Dollar, the itinerant ship captain, is strapping and handsome. The characters cheerfully recall Robinson Crusoe and Kipling; we the reader are constantly bombarded with hints that the Fall is coming.

Using a technique that seems more clever than helpful, Wiggins peppers the margins with text from other books and strange subheadings. I found it distracted from an already fractured story. When the Horrific and Shocking events occur, the scenes are so veiled and oblique that they are hard to realize; the oomph never really appears. ( )
  unabridgedchick | Jul 25, 2010 |
Lord of the Flies with girls ( )
  lizziemc | Oct 21, 2009 |
If you thought Lord of the Flies was disturbing, just wait till you read this. Not recommended for those with a sensitive disposition or highly romanticized views on human nature / religion. ( )
1 vote hellhound007 | Apr 27, 2009 |
It's been several years since I read this novel, but I remember really liking it. I plan to read more Wiggins. ( )
1 vote petersonvl | Mar 5, 2009 |
Showing 1-5 of 6 (next | show all)
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