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Red Island House

3.50  ·  Rating details ·  60 ratings  ·  38 reviews
Shay is surprised when her husband Senna declares his intention to build her a spectacular dream house on an idyllic beach in the tropical island nation of Madagascar.

But the Red Island House casts a spell from the moment she sees it, and before she knows it Shay has become the somewhat reluctant mistress of a sprawling household, caught between her privileged American upb
Hardcover, 288 pages
Expected publication: March 23rd 2021 by Scribner
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  • Red Island House by Andrea Lee
    Red Island House

    Release date: Mar 23, 2021
    Enter for a chance to win one of 50 finished copies of Red Island House, the evocative, transporting new novel from National Book Award-nominated writ ...more

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    Giveaway dates: Feb 21 - Mar 21, 2021

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    Average rating 3.50  · 
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     ·  60 ratings  ·  38 reviews

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    Jenny Lawson
    Feb 05, 2021 rated it really liked it
    Beautifully written. It seems less of a novel and more of a collection of short stories (all with the same central character) that explore race, class, othering, death, betrayal and a million other topics. It was a slower sort of read and I needed my dictionary more than I'd like to admit but it was worth it. ...more
    *This book was received as an advanced reader's copy from NetGalley.

    Red Island House is one of the more unusual books I've read this year. Not in the sense of dystopia, invention, or paranormal; but rather, that it takes you to a setting that is not one that I've encountered in a lot of books. It takes you to Madagascar, by way of an unusual set of characters.

    Shay is a professor from America who falls in love with an Italian several years her senior. Wealthy, when she meets him he is in the midd
    Cassidy Washburn
    Jul 19, 2020 rated it liked it
    Shelves: arc-copies
    Red Island House is gorgeously written; a journey of discovery that is as seductive as it is evocative. Taking place over the course of 20 years, the story follows Shay as she grapples with her new responsibilities as “Lady of the Red House,” and her own identity. And as the events reach a crescendo, you will be left breathless from this provocative novel. Once you pick it up, I promise you, you won’t be able to stop reading - I read it in a day!
    switterbug (Betsey)
    Mar 05, 2021 rated it it was amazing
    This isn’t a one size fits all novel. It isn’t for everyone, but it hit a sweet spot for me. It was unfamiliar, foreign, colorful, erotic, and otherworldly at times. The protagonist is a Black American professor, Shay, who married an older Italian entrepreneur, Senna. On his urging, they buy a vacation villa in a small (fictional) beach village, Naratrany, in Madagascar, as newlyweds in the latter part of the 90s. They are both multilingual (but don’t speak the island languages), and live in Mil ...more
    Eule Luftschloss
    trigger warning
    (view spoiler)

    When a woman of colour who is a college professor marries a rich Italian guy, she becomes the mistress of the red island house: A newly-build manor in Madagaskar which has blood-red floors, hence the name.

    This book is something between a novel and a short story collection,
    Whitney Lawton
    Sep 28, 2020 rated it liked it
    I really was excited about this book. The storyline was intriguing and I was looking forward to a novel based in Madagascar, as I have limited knowledge of this country. I also was fascinated by the main character being a black American, living in Italy (and married to an Italian) and her experience as such spending her holidays in Africa. However I just had a hard time getting through this one. The storyline wasn't cohesive and the pacing just felt really slow. I also didn't feel a great connec ...more
    Nov 28, 2020 rated it really liked it
    Thanks to Edelweiss for the ARC. I enjoyed this book.

    There is a main character in Shay and she discusses race, and colonization, but in reality that is not what this book is about. This book is about the Red House, and the people who come and go through the town. The book is set up to where each character(s) get a chapter, with certain character - the Senna family, Betrice, to name some wander through to observe the town and people.

    Some reviews here seem disappointed because the book was not wh
    Nov 01, 2020 rated it liked it
    Shay was a rootless outsider, whose life of privilege carried with its blindness, pride, and scattershot ignorance, and Bertine was the one who belonged, who saw, and who brought order by naming things for what they were.

    This book is about a Black woman living in a Red Island House built in Madagascar by her wealthy Italian husband. In the Red Island House, Shay's journey as a wealthy landowner in Madagascar has her realizing Madagascar's social issues and her situation's irony.

    First off, thi
    Sarah Wagner
    Dec 18, 2020 rated it liked it
    I admit I was drawn to this novel for its setting - the idea of Madagascar as a topical idyll is seductive and parts of this book challenge that conception while others lean into the perceived otherness of the island nation. Overall, it makes for an interesting novel, but I was frustrated by the structure, which felt more like a series of short stories rather than a novel.
    Carole Bell
    A lush, lyrical, and dense saga about place, love, culture and identity with a touch of magical realism. Review to come in BookPage.
    Feb 17, 2021 rated it it was ok
    I was thrilled to receive an ARC of this book because I have never read a book that is set in Madagascar, and I knew very little about the country itself. I eagerly read the first chapter, which took me on a journey of a young Black American woman learning the mysteries of her new house in Madagascar. The chapter hinted at the promise of the rest of the story -- how does an American deal with a country of such unspoken mystery and class/colonization issues, while she is still learning how to nav ...more
    Sep 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
    I'm so thankful that I got the opportunity to read this book set in the beautiful, distant Madagascar while I'm in lockdown. Red Island House is a unique portrayal of marriage, migration, race, colonialism and sex,

    This novel tells the story of Shay, an African American professor married to a wealthy Italian Senna, who announces that he is building a dream estate in Madagascar where he would like to move their family. So the two live in Madagascar, trying to stay married and bring up their childr
    Jan 09, 2021 rated it liked it
    Shelves: finished, reviewed
    A couple who being of two different countries and upbringings live off and on in a house the rich husband had built for her. They go there with the idea they will just live there off and on with not much interactions or issues. They find it is not that easy though with the land being filled with myths, folklore and native people who have their own feelings and views of the outsiders. This house and area sees many outsiders come and go with differing intentions and views that effect both the nat
    Patricia Tomes
    Feb 02, 2021 rated it it was amazing
    A magnificent book: the prose, the characters, the setting.

    The story is told from the viewpoint of Shay Senna, a Black American writer, translator, professor who married an Italian businessman. It was his dream to build the Red House in Naratrany, an island in the north of Madagascar. His dream was coming to fruition after his divorce when he met and married Shay. She has always felt like a tourist in Madagascar. In fact, she is. The Sennas only spend summer and holiday vacations there. The rest
    Danielle Seals
    Feb 28, 2021 rated it liked it
    3 -3.5 stars

    I was intrigued by the description of this book and was expecting a story of Madagascar’s people’s culture, beliefs, practices of magic and charm, etc. surrounding an Italian husband and African-American wife on building a luxurious vacation home on the island. Instead, I found the novel to be a collection of short stories surrounding around Shay and Senna. The author is talented in her words are lyrical and this is beautifully written, but so detailed that this is a slow, but impor
    Dec 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
    From her first tentative sensations of Madagascar as a newlywed vacation-villa co-owner (with her ostentatiously wealthy Italian businessman husband) through the decades to come, American-born African-American Studies professor Shay Senna works towards coming to terms with where she, as an African American reborn into the Motherland, as it were, fits into the complex, colorful, impassioned tapestry of life as it passionately plays out on the island in Ms. Lee's skillfully crafted novel. Erudite, ...more
    This was my first read by Andrea Lee so I wasn't entirely sure what to expect. I was looking for a book that told me something about Madagascar, it's culture, beliefs, and it's people. True it would be through the lense of an African American woman leading a life of luxury on the island, adding some complexity to the story. However, this is more of a story about the ups and downs of marriage, a woman being consumed to an extent by that marriage, and many small short stories to pull the reader in ...more
    Kate Grant
    Feb 22, 2021 rated it liked it
    Shelves: first-reads
    3.5/5 First Reads winner in exchange for an honest review.
    I have to say this novel was nothing like I was expecting. I thought this would have more of a Yellow Wallpaper/Mexican Gothic vibe to it, based on the description, but there wasn't much gothic imagery or mystery to the plot. This book is lyrically written and transports the reader straight to Madagascar. It is told through many small vignettes/short stories to bring the reader into the world of the house. I will say this writing style c
    Nov 25, 2020 rated it really liked it
    Thanks to Scribner, I was able to read an advance copy of this new book that will be sold in March 2021.

    The Red Island House of the title is a luxurious estate on a small island in Madagascar, built by the businessman husband of the main character, Shay.

    The book follows Shay over her twenty year relationship with the house, her husband, and mainly the times of her life when she lives on the island.

    It comes across as a set of short stories that are combined to make a novel. Unusual, but it works
    Dec 08, 2020 rated it liked it
    I received an advance copy of this book from Scribners publishing. Thank you.
    I found this book interesting. Shay, an African American, intellectual woman, marries Senna and older Italian man. He builds this dream vacation home in Madagascar, which she is to be the mistress of the house. Immediately she struggles to find her place here. Initially the foreman undermined everything she did. With the help from Bertine, her housekeeper and a local spiritual healer, she gains peace in the home. From t
    Feb 26, 2021 rated it liked it
    My Review of
    By Andrea Lee
    Gifted & Published by {Partner} @Scribner
    On Sale: 3/23/21 - Pre-Order Link in Bio
    This was quite a read. Everything so exciting and hopeful in the beginning. Shay is a African American woman that meets her future husband Senna, an Italian that is in the midst of building a beautiful dream home in Madagascar. They fall in love and marry and in the Manor that was built, the floors were painted blood red, thus Shay becomes The Lady of the Red Island Ho
    Kim Bakos
    Nov 21, 2020 rated it it was ok
    Shelves: giveaways
    I was hoping that book by a Black author that was intended to explore racial issues would add to my understanding of that topic, but this book fell flat for me. I understood the conflicted feelings of the main character as a Black woman leading a life of privilege in Africa, but didn't really like the character very well or get much in the way of clarity from her.
    One gripe with the book, and a major one, was the writing itself. Some sentences were nearly half a page in length and I found myself
    Dec 24, 2020 rated it it was ok
    Shelves: arc
    The book uses a marriage and a house in Madagascar as a through line, and a character, Shay, as a protagonist to connect anecdotal style stories about the setting. The writing is colourful and evocative of a place, but I didn't get a sense of time/era or depth of character. I just couldn't find that entry point to make me feel emotionally invested. I've read other books that take this kind of premise and have made me feel for all the characters, so I can't quite put my finger on what went wrong ...more
    Mariah Wamby
    Oct 12, 2020 rated it liked it
    “For all of them, Madagascar has become not just the nostalgic lost land of childhood holidays, but also the country of secrets and silence.”

    Thank you to Netgalley and Scribner for the arc of Red Island House by Andrea Lee.

    Red Island House is the story of a vacation home in Madagascar and how the time there impacts Shay and her family over decades.

    Red Island House was an ambitious undertaking — trying to show how foreigners are impacted by time spent in Madagascar, but for me it was a bit o
    Margie Smith
    Nov 22, 2020 rated it liked it

    Winning this book in the Goodreads Giveaway was very exciting! I found the writing to be as lush as the island the book describes. I seem to need books right now that let me travel to distant places and feel like I’m right there, and this book does that. The story also does a good job of expressing the main character’s tightrope walk as an African American woman in post-colonial Africa, owning land and a big house; aware of her privilege and position and realizing how different her life would be
    Jan 15, 2021 rated it really liked it
    This book is not so much about the Red House and the unsettling atmosphere Shay feels after spending some time there. The majority of this book discusses Shay's different acquaintances she meets over two decades of living in Madagascar during the holidays.

    This novel was beautifully written, and I loved learning about Shay's conflicting feelings regarding the red house and her staying in Madagascar in general with her white husband. Unfortunately, I can't rate this book higher than a 3.5, b
    Feb 27, 2021 rated it liked it
    3 stars. I appreciated the writing and how the author paints a vivid picture of Madagascar. But I found the book disjointed and inconsistent. In reading the Acknowledgements, this makes sense: It was originally written as a series of short stories. Lee says "I did see they could actually become part of one narrative" but I disagree. I was drawn into the book, engaged in the introduction to Shay, Bertine, and the Red House. But they do not connect with the other stories in the book in a meaningfu ...more
    Mar 03, 2021 rated it liked it
    Many thanks to NetGalley and Scribner for this advanced copy!
    I was really excited to receive an advanced copy of this book. The description of it being a story of an American woman moving to Madagascar grabbed me right away. I know little of Madagascar and was excited to read more about it. However, this was a DNF for more. I made it about 25% in and had to put it down. The pacing was way too slow for my taste and seemed very disjointed. I also felt like Shay was a very hard character to connect
    Dec 02, 2020 rated it liked it
    Shay and Senna have an unconventional marriage as they live between Italy and Madagascar where Senna has built a large home for his family. As the family grows and reaches maturity, the rest of the family spend time both in Italy and America, and Senna spends most of his time in Madagascar. This novel looks at the differences between the races, but also the differences in a race.
    Camille Pum
    Dec 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
    I won this book in the giveaway. Andrea Lee is a thoughtful author who let's us in to Shay's intimate life. Thought-provoking and inspiring Lee allows the light and dark parts of life intermingle and settle in to themselves. I loved this book ...more
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    Andrea Lee received her bachelor's and master's degrees from Harvard University.

    Lee made her debut in 1981 with a journalistic reflection on life in the Soviet Union, Russian Journal. The book came after a 1978 exchange visit to Moscow State University with her husband when she was 25.

    She is a former staff writer for The New Yorker, and her fiction and nonfiction writing has also appeared in The

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