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Blaze Island

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For those who loved Barbara Kingsolver’s Flight Behavior comes a new climate-themed, Shakespeare-inspired novel from bestselling author Catherine Bush.

The time is now or an alternate near now, the world close to our own. A mammoth Category Five hurricane sweeps up the eastern seaboard of North America, leaving devastation in its wake, its outer wings brushing over tiny Blaze Island in the North Atlantic.

Just as the storm disrupts the present, it stirs up the past: Miranda’s memories of growing up in an isolated, wind-swept cove and the events of long ago that her father will not allow her to speak of. In the aftermath of the storm, she finds herself in a world altered so quickly and so radically that she hardly knows what has happened. As Miranda says, change is clear after it happens. (Goose Lane Editions)

365 pages, Paperback

Published September 1, 2020

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About the author

Catherine Bush

17 books35 followers
Catherine Bush loves islands and northern landscapes. She is the author of five novels, including Blaze Island, the Canada Reads long-listed Accusation (2013), the Trillium Award short-listed Claire’s Head (2004), and the national bestselling The Rules of Engagement (2000), also a New York Times Notable Book and a Globe & Mail Best Book of the Year. She lives in Toronto and an old schoolhouse in Eastern Ontario and has spoken internationally about addressing the climate crisis in fiction. She is an Associate Professor at the University of Guelph and Coordinator of the Guelph Creative Writing MFA, based in Toronto. Her nonfiction has appeared in publications including the Globe and Mail, The New York Times Magazine, the literary magazine Brick, Canadian Notes and Queries and the anthology, The Heart Does Break (2009).

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5 stars
49 (12%)
4 stars
109 (27%)
3 stars
168 (42%)
2 stars
59 (14%)
1 star
9 (2%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 63 reviews
Profile Image for Pamk.
228 reviews5 followers
March 27, 2021
I felt the book was very uneven. The premise was appealing and very current; the struggle between those who wanted to either continue take or increase their wealth despite the obvious impact their carbon footprint was having on the planet, and those who were fighting to try to start to effect climate change. At times I thought "oh great, now we're getting into the good stuff"; I found the idea of spraying particulate into the atmosphere to reflect sunlight very intriguing, and the descriptions of the landscape were beautiful, but then the book would veer off into trying to be a story about relationships. I just found it was all over the place, and I didn't really buy into the entire thing or feel that all of the characters were believable.
Profile Image for Cybercrone.
1,756 reviews14 followers
May 31, 2021
Fairly interesting story in parts, but I didn't find it very satisfying because at times I wasn't sure what was happening, and I have absolutely no idea what the ending was as there just didn't seem to be one, the story just abruptly stopped.
Profile Image for Shelley Gibbs.
227 reviews8 followers
December 17, 2020
Compelling reworking of The Tempest. Lush, lyrical & atmospheric description of the landscape of Newfoundland (if you've ever been, it will bring you right back). The island itself is a strong character. Full of tumult (the weather and the human emotions), this is a thoughtful assessment of our predicament in the face of climate change, a coming of age story, and a bit of an eco-thriller. Not totally devoid of hope, thank goodness.
Profile Image for Lindsay.
280 reviews
October 19, 2022
My parents and husband are all from Newfoundland, and thus I've visited there many times. I really enjoyed the setting of this book on the fictional "Blaze Island", modeled after the real Fogo Island. The lives of the people living in a remote Newfoundland community really rang true for me. As I listened to the audiobook version of this, I also found that the accent of the community members was very authentic, except that they spoke waaaay slower than an actual Newfoundlander would. (In all fairness, an accurate speech tempo would probably make the book incomprehensible to many listeners ;) ).

As for the plot of the book, it was okay, told as both present time and flashbacks into the past. Miranda and her father have moved to this island from elsewhere for reasons that are revealed in those flashbacks. Miranda also has a strained relationship with one of the residents of Blaze Island, Caleb, who she used to be close to. Miranda's father is a climate scientist and they both live with as low a carbon footprint as possible.

The book starts off with a very strong hurricane hitting the island, and a stranded motorist from off-island winding up at Miranda and her father's front door. Some other strangers flew onto the island at the same time, and this kicks off a series of events where Miranda realizes that her father has not been entirely truthful with her.

Overall I enjoyed the book, but it did seem to have a bit of a tough time deciding if it was about the relationships between the characters or about climate science. And the ending was just terrible, as it just ended without resolving anything. I actually listened to the end a couple of times because I assumed I let my mind wander and missed something, but nope, it just didn't resolve the main conflict at all. What's with that?
Profile Image for Dna.
629 reviews20 followers
May 15, 2021
Sorry-not-sorry, but I don’t care about climate change fiction. It’s such a dirty way to push an agenda, especially considering the whole “program” basically places the blame on the average citizen, not the corporations and government bodies that have allowed the earth to be raped and raped again.


I won’t. I don’t.

Profile Image for Andrea McDowell.
569 reviews314 followers
July 17, 2021
**Climate Book #126**

This novel was also selected for Hamilton Reads this year. It's encouraging to me, personally and professionally, to see the explosion in cli-fi and its exposure and acceptance to a wider audience, and I enjoyed this novel, though I didn't love it.

It is, as advertised, a retelling of Shakespeare's The Tempest. This provided both strengths and weaknesses. The main weakness was that you had a pretty good sense of where the story was going, though not necessarily how it was going to get there. The strength was the use of different stereotypes and models for characters and behaviours. The Prospero character, for instance, who was a climate scientist in the novel rather than a sorcerer (but both interested in the control of the weather) was neither the saint nor villain of other stories and reports, depending on the politics of the author/reporter, but a more fleshed-out character with a number of both heroic and villainous traits: concerned, committed, controlling. His relationship with his daughter was a source of real emotional tension as his evident love for her and unhealthy need to control her and her actions painted a more complex portrait than one typically sees in such works. On an artistic level I appreciated this, though I didn't much like him, as a person.

Besides The Tempest, Bush borrows from a number of current figures and stories to populate the novel: a thinly fictionalized Richard Branson makes an appearance, for example, and a fictionalized version of Climategate sets the whole thing in motion. Rogue geoengineers in real life make a formative appearance.

I enjoyed it, though the moral ambiguity and serious subject matter made it a sometimes difficult read, and the mental comparisons to the skeletal structure of Shakespeare's work also provided more emotional distance than I might have preferred. But overall I found it a worthwhile read.
Profile Image for DebPei.
116 reviews
January 26, 2021
I read the first half of this book in a day but struggled with the second half. It seemed like the climate change message took over the book. Unclear why Miranda’s Dad was so upset with Caleb. None of it made sense to me. Beautifully written though.
Profile Image for Katherine Stoltz.
125 reviews
February 25, 2021
This book was a great disappointment. The premise is timely, but the writing teeters between arcane words (stearin, anybody?) and Harlequin romance. I found the ending unsatisfying. Too many characters which were not pertinent to the storyline.
April 24, 2021
Loved the landscape descriptions and memories of NFLD. Could not really get into the story though - as much as I wanted to!
Profile Image for Dilia Narduzzi.
99 reviews
June 2, 2021
I haven't been able to get into literary fiction lately, but this was the one that held my attention. I really liked it; I haven't read Bush before but she's a beautiful writer and I like to read about the weather. The ending was a little strange, but I think that's because it was so open-ended. I'm so used to mysteries lately, which have a definitive ending. Partially that's literary fiction, and partially it's frustrating. But it had me wondering all last night about what I thought happened at the end. Some of the characters went haywire by the end, and I wasn't sure if I could trust who I thought they were. Why do endings often bother me?
Profile Image for Blair.
29 reviews
July 16, 2021
I enjoyed the the descriptions of the island and the setting of this book but I couldn't get into the story.
Profile Image for Amy.
514 reviews39 followers
November 29, 2021
Good Canadian contemporary near future fiction that reads much like watching a film.
Profile Image for Karen.
198 reviews1 follower
September 13, 2021
An interesting concept. I like a book where I can visualize my characters and the setting clearly. I found that challenging with this book. I kept reading as I was curious to find out what the situation was with Caleb and Miranda, what Alan (Milan) had up his sleeve. The language was much too flowery and descriptive and presumptive of people’s feelings. At times it was challenging to know if they were in the present or the past. There were paragraphs thrown in that didn’t need to be. I would not recommend this book despite the subject of it being very current. I enjoyed ‘The Right to be Cold’ much more which is a true story and I thought more effective. She tried to throw too many factors and mysteries into this book.

Catherine obviously did a great deal of research and is passionate about the subject however for me it didn’t flow. I would not read further books by her as I just didn’t enjoy the style.

This review by another reader sums it up for me -
I felt the book was very uneven. The premise was appealing and very current; the struggle between those who wanted to either continue take or increase their wealth despite the obvious impact their carbon footprint was having on the planet, and those who were fighting to try to start to effect climate change. At times I thought "oh great, now we're getting into the good stuff"; I found the idea of spraying particulate into the atmosphere to reflect sunlight very intriguing, and the descriptions of the landscape were beautiful, but then the book would veer off into trying to be a story about relationships. I just found it was all over the place, and I didn't really buy into the entire thing or feel that all of the characters were believable.
Profile Image for Stephanie.
162 reviews3 followers
April 18, 2022
Would DNF if I didn’t have to read this for class. Plot, timing, and relationships were all over the place. I had a hard time following the multiple storylines. There were too many characters, none of whom felt fully fleshed out/ established enough. Some really awkward sentences. I laughed when Caleb threatened to set the place on fire, then just kinda...left? Disappeared off the face of the Earth??

1 star for the beautiful imagery of the island and the wind though.
Profile Image for Kelly Rathgeber.
25 reviews
September 23, 2021
I enjoyed the overall theme of this novel. This book was highly anticipated as I had heard on the CBC book review, so I purchased it as a gift for my sister.

The author had clearly done her research on environmental aspects and incorporated interesting pieces of environmental anecdotes throughout. Character development was just okay in my opinion. I had understood the main character "Miranda" to be a child throughout the novel, only to find out toward the end of the book that she was actually 18. The way the main character's life was mostly out of her own control and was generally made immature in most aspects (decision making, romance, assertiveness etc) which was irritating for me to read. Some minimal sexual exploration. Many mysteries that come to a head eventually.

I was really looking forward to reading this book, and perhaps overhyped it. It was an alright read. Not likely to recommend it however.
Profile Image for K LF.
80 reviews1 follower
Want to read
August 2, 2020
Very excited to read soon! I have two of Catherine Bush's books - Rules of Engagement and Minus Time. Both are a nostalgic part of my thirties when I started reading more Canadian books, going to author readings and learning about new writers. I loved reading a book that was set in Toronto! Looking forward to this one.

Plus - beautiful cover!
Profile Image for Hollay Ghadery.
Author 2 books19 followers
September 15, 2020
I was a little concerned when I picked up this book that I'd read it and just feel terrible about and powerless over the state of the world. There is no soap-box preaching in Bush's compelling novel. It is an exploration of how we're failing each other and our earth, yes, but it also offers a quiet hope that there can be reconciliation and rejuvenation. Poetic, lush language brings the salt and sun and east coast life alive. Highly recommend this book.
284 reviews
August 25, 2021
This has become the most important book I've read in many years. My own part of the world has experienced an extremely hot summer leading to drought, failed crops and widespread forest fires, which in turn produced high air pollution, no mosquitoes, an onslaught of grasshoppers and an exodus of urban dwellers seeking relief from their concrete jungles.

In Catherine Bush's novel, Blaze Island provides an example of climate change in another part of the world through the eyes of a young Miranda Wells and her father Milan, a climate scientist, who have fled a university community after being threatened by climate-change deniers. Living close to the land, they adopt a new life but continue to monitor shifting weather patterns. Ancient icebergs the size of apartment blocks, freed from Greenland due to a depleted ozone layer and Arctic warming, drift by in summer as they melt on their journey southward. Hurricanes tear apart whole towns along the eastern seaboard; creeks become rivers; power lines and communication towers are felled; planes do not fly; and ferries do not operate in churning seas.

Parallels to Shakespeare's "The Tempest" are subtle additions to the turmoil of their lives on the island: Milan, the displaced Duke; Miranda, his daughter; Caleb, an out-of-place black man yearning for Miranda; Roy, a capitalist "king" who will exploit any opportunity; Frank, Roy's son, who abandons his family's wealth to live honourably; and Ariel, the name given to an experimental project that seeks to shield the sensitive areas of the globe from the sun's damage.

The language is enriched by Bush's extensive knowledge of climate change in all its meaningful manifestations. Her characters are no less well formed by their roles in this plot-driven tale of love and secrets, passion and loss, loyalty and exclusion. It is never a dull read.

Profile Image for Breanna.
114 reviews
March 8, 2022
Torn by the 3 stars but just too disappointed for 4. The premise and setup of this book, so deeply ingrained in Shakespeare's Tempest, are exquisite. The new lives conceived for these old characters are provocative and intriguing. Unfortunately... Very little delivery is achieved. I didn't care at all about the flashbacks; had no idea what analog for Ariel was occurring; had no reason to doubt Caleb nor to trust Frank. I wish I wasn't so disappointed but I am. Where is the exploration of true-vs-imaginary monstrosity in the mixed-race Caleb? Where is the secret reveal of Milan's fall from grace? Where is the feminist awakening of a Miranda, sheltered from reality by her father and brought to life by a visitor who informs her of more? Where is the conflict between Caleb and Miranda? What was Sylvia doing there? Such a waste. There is a story here but not a theme or message. I wanted so badly to like this book and was so bitterly disappointed by the lack of plot and resolution. I thank the author for my recent study of The Tempest, though, that I might better appreciate its lesser adaptations in the future.
Profile Image for Enid Wray.
878 reviews29 followers
December 21, 2020
I had high hopes for this one... I love Catherine’s writing and then layer in a NFLD coming of age story with a climate change back story. What's not to love?

It started out great - love the characters and the landscape... which Catherine always does well. Shades of Heathcliff, and Rebecca…

But early enthusiasm waned the further into I got. Only after finishing - when trying to figure out why it went a little south for me - did I learn that it is a re-telling of The Tempest. That I had not figured that out for myself speaks volumes… I really am not a fan of these forced re-tellings… elements of the story didn’t work because they were trying to fit an old mold. I wish the characters has just been allowed to play out their own lives and the overall messaging had been a little less heavy handed.
Profile Image for Peter.
475 reviews43 followers
August 25, 2021
Yes. Five stars.

Shakespeare’s The Tempest is a wonderful and magical play. My favourite for more reasons than need to be discussed here. In Blaze Island by Catherine Bush we get to see a modern adaptation of the play. Bush’s book goes beyond the scope of many intertextual books. Yes, there are similar names, and events, and flickers of Shakespeare within the story but there is much more. Blaze Island re-imagines Prospero’s island, his world, his magic. Bush turns Prospero’s world into a study of climate change, and broadens this world into a plea to consider what we are doing to this fragile planet we all call home.

The novel is never preachy, and never wags a finger at its readers. What the novel does is take us to a world that is very close to us but still yet to come, and challenges the reader to consider our future. In Shakespeare’s Tempest Prospero was able to mend the rift with his brother, was able to take Miranda back to her home country and able to live happily ever after. In this novel there is no place to go. The savage beast of climate change has been unleashed upon the world.

I will not ruin the ending of Blaze Island. It is for you to discover. Perhaps by looking out a window, or watching how our climate patterns are altering, or experiencing the deafness of our materialistic world you will get a sense of the major theme of this novel.
1 review
October 12, 2020
An isolated island. A daughter and father with a tragic past and a distrust of strangers. A mysterious visitor. And a global warming fuelled storm of colossal proportions bearing down on them all. So starts Catherine Bush’s new novel Blaze Island. I loved this novel! The mystery at the heart of it drives the story on but at the same time, the writing is so beautiful that I found myself lingering over sentences. It’s also a love story and a coming of age story, but above all, it’s a passionate plea for all of us to think about what global warming is doing to our planet and how much the natural world has to tell us if we would only stop to listen. Dynamite discussion at bookclub about Blaze Island. Very heated (pun intended:))
Profile Image for Nancy Croth.
367 reviews1 follower
March 9, 2021
I am rating this book 4 star although I do have a couple of reservations about it. The story itself was relevant, timely and beautifully written. I loved the reference to Waterloo and it helped build my connection to the characters. I was often confused as to where everyone was on the island and it seemed important to know that. If I was reading it again, I would definitely refer to the map at the front of the book from the get-go. Also, I think it might have been overwritten a little although I believe the author might have been using that style to raise the level of tension in the story.
For anyone interested in knowing more about weather and the incredible forces at play on both sides of the climate change continuum, this will be a very captivating read!
Profile Image for Saskia.
26 reviews
May 19, 2021
I found the first half of the book captivating and intriguing. The descriptions of the island, the storm, the New Foundland atmosphere were stunning, and I was intrigued by the relationship between the father and daughter and their attempts to build a new life amidst grief.

The second half of the book was more fast-paced, but I found myself struggling to keep up with the new characters and relationships that seemed insufficiently developed (particularly between Miranda and Frank). The ending left me disappointed - it felt too rushed and simplistic.

Overall, I would say that the strengths of the book lie in the vivid descriptions of the island setting, its inhabitants & its pace of life, more than in the climate change /corporate greed plot line.
Profile Image for Holly.
57 reviews
May 27, 2021
As I start this review, I will in all fairness admit I've never read The Tempest so I'm probably not fully appreciating this book. However, I found too much time in the book was devoted to trivial things. The ending of the book felt more like the climax. It ended rather suddenly. I wish more time had been used to focus on the fight between climate scientists and climate change deniers. It also would've been nice to see a better picture painted of the world's state. With Miranda and her father living in isolation and cutting themselves (though mostly Miranda who takes up a large chunk of the story's focus) off from news of the world it was hard to really feel like the world was falling apart.
215 reviews1 follower
June 17, 2021
Four significant factors make this a five star read. First, Bush bases the tale on the Tempest and re creates those wonderful characters with a new modern take. Second, the magic and mystery centres on climate change and just like Prospero, Alan Wells, manipulates weather in an effort to slow down the ice melt at the poles. Third, the author develops lovely, flawed characters in Miranda and Caleb, Caleb especially is so raw and tormented. And finally the language is lovely and poetic. Add that to a favourite island setting - Blaze Island, a fictitious islands off the coast of Gander Newfoundland! Of course, I love the book jacket, designed by one of my favourite Newfoundland artists, Christine Koch. Five stars!
1 review
November 12, 2020
Picked up this book a few weeks ago for a lockdown bookclub and couldn't put it down! It had a great pace and kept me wanting to read more, switching between characters and time lines. The description of the island and the weather instantly transported me away - which was a welcome distraction! It's very atmospheric with lots of talk and imagery of clouds and ice and storms, set alongside a bit of a mad scientist! Our bookclub had lots to discuss around climate change but also the nature of familial and romantic relationships. It felt like a new fresh story on a really timely topic. Definitely recommend!
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