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The Last Kings Of Sark – Rosa Rankin-Gee Review

The Last Kings Of Sark – Rosa Rankin-Gee Review

thelastkingsofsarkReleased: 2013

A cliché it may be, but we’re all a little guilty of judging books by their covers in the literal sense. I’m a great one for beautiful covers and hardbacks alike, famously put off by dreary paperbacks and stubborn in the belief that the appearance of a book tells a lot about the story it holds. Whilst the cover of Rosa Rankin-Gee’s The Last Kings of Sark may be simple – three strolling figures silhouetted against a glittering sea in the distance – it’s perfectly evocative of the sun-drenched fiction sandwiched between the hardback cover.

The story tells the tale of twenty-one year old Jude, who flies to the tiny Channel Island of Sark to tutor a teenager named Pip at his wealthy father’s insistence. After the first minor hiccup of the family expecting Pip’s new tutor to be male, Jude slowly settles in to life on the island. Despite her initial unease at Pip’s introvert manner, and the shadowy presence of his reclusive mother, Jude befriends the family’s holiday cook, Sofi, whose lively and uninhibited personality brings the three youngsters together. When Pip’s father goes away on a business trip the trio fall into a daily routine of adventures and explorations that include cycling across the cliff tops and smuggling scallops from the ice-cold waters. A tightly bonded friendship is formed as the warm, summer weeks pass by and, though they know that one summer can’t last forever, they make promises to one day go to Paris together. Jude leaves at summer’s end and the trio go their separate ways in life, leaving plenty to remember from their time in Sark.

For a novel released amidst the extreme chill of November, this book screams summer. You can almost feel the sizzling warmth of the sun, the wind sweeping your hair into the air, the trace of salt and sand on your skin – things so suggestive of summer that they transport you to the Island with the characters. These carefree adventures by the sea are so vivid that you want to live them with Jude, Sofi and Pip. Once the magic of summer fades though, the novel takes a more solemn turn as the realities of life taint the trio’s youthful hopefulness. As the story visits each of the three individually we see how detached their lives are from the lives they once dreamed of having. All find themselves a little disillusioned, searching for the magic they experienced in Sark and never coming close to replicating it. As life takes its toll on each character, all that’s left is the memory of a summer shared and nostalgia for a friendship formed and lost.

Rankin-Gee’s characters are beautifully detailed, all their faults and foibles displayed with such intensity that you easily believe they exist outside their fictional world. It’s in the realistic descriptions that Rankin-Gee involves the reader in the story, her dynamic and youthful style of writing unique from the offset. As a fellow film lover, the opening of the story feels particularly pertinent: “If this were a film I would want it to start with leaves, and light coming through them. The sun would hit the camera straight on, and splinter out and catch dust.” It’s only when you reach the end of the book, and you’re searching for the additional pages you wish existed, that you think back to those words and say “yes, that’s precisely how I’d see it too”.

The Last Kings of Sark is an accomplished debut from a writer whose realistic yet poetic approach will leave you feeling a spectrum of emotions, not to mention a sincere hope for a sequel.


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