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Easter Island Paperback – June 1, 2004


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Dial Press Trade Paperback; Reprint edition (June 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385336748
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385336741
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.7 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (100 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #245,057 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Restrained passion and conflicted loyalties drive this sweeping debut novel, in which two women of different eras experience the mysteries of Easter Island. In 1912, Elsa Pendleton's father dies and leaves her to care for her 19-year-old sister, Alice, who is beautiful but not quite right in the head. To secure their position, 22-year-old Elsa marries Edward Beazley, a contemporary of her father's who is an anthropologist with the Royal Geographical Society in England. They travel to Easter Island, where Edward plans to study the giant moai sculptures, and Elsa finds herself immersed in a new and harsh culture. As she contends with revelations concerning her husband and her sister, she befriends the native islanders and becomes engrossed in unlocking the meaning of the symbols she finds on wooden tablets. In a parallel narrative, Greer Farraday, a young American botanist recovering from a disastrous marriage to an older professor, arrives on the island in 1973 to uncover the mystery of the island's lack of native trees. One of Greer's fellow island researchers is Vicente Portales, a cryptographer attempting to interpret the rongorongo tablets and breech Greer's defenses. As Elsa and Greer's stories play out in alternating sections, a third element is intertwined: the tale of Graf Von Spee, the German admiral who led his ill-fated fleet across the South Pacific at the outbreak of World War I. Vanderbes knows how to craft suspense, and the narratives-while packed with vivid historical and scientific detail-move forward on the strength of her fully realized characters. When the connection between Elsa and Greer is revealed, it illuminates the novel. Like the overcast skies of Easter Island, this impressive debut is rich in shades of gray: meteorological, scientific, intellectual and emotional.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

Through the interwoven stories of two women 60 years apart, this novel comes close to finding answers to the following age-old mysteries: the World War I defeat of Admiral Von Spee, the existence of the giant statues on Easter Island, the origins of the first flower, and why smart women let men take advantage of them. In 1913, Elsa accompanies her husband and sister to Easter Island for an anthropological study. Once there, she becomes a linguist and discovers the reasons behind the destruction of the giant Moai statues. World War I intervenes before the origins can be revealed to the rest of the world. Sixty years later, botanist Greer Farraday, suffering from the knowledge that her husband plagiarized her work as well as from his death, picks up where Elsa left off. The two compelling characters' stories of betrayal are equally engrossing. The story of Admiral Von Spee is less engaging and rather unbelievably tied to Elsa. This historical novel deftly combines romance, warfare, and science for the rationalist and romantic alike. Marta Segal
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

More About the Author

Jennifer Vanderbes is a graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop and the recipient of numerous awards, including a Guggenheim Fellowship and a New York Public Library Cullman Fellowship. Her debut novel, Easter Island, was named a "best book of 2003" by the Washington Post and Christian Science Monitor and was translated into sixteen languages. Her second novel, Strangers at the Feast, was described by Library Journal as "an absorbing and suspenseful story about the dynamics of family,generational misunderstandings, and the desperate ways one copes with both the arbitrariness of fate and the consequences of one's choices." Her third novel, The Secret of Raven Point, will be published in February 2014.

Her essays and reviews have appeared in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post and the Atlantic. Her short fiction has appeared in Best New American Voices, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, and Granta.

She has taught creative writing at the Iowa Writers' Workshop, Columbia University's M.F.A. Program, and at the Colgate Writers' Conference. She currently teaches in the University of Tampa's M.F.A. program.

For more information and to contact Jennifer, visit www.jennifervanderbes.com

Customer Reviews

Let me start by saying that I enjoyed reading this book.
John W. Graham
The stories were rich and the author did a good job of focusing on the characters instead of simply allowing them "to be" on the island.
B. A. Chaney
Greer's did not get interesting until halfway through and too much of the book was spent on Greer than Elsa.
Sherry Berry

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

38 of 41 people found the following review helpful By Barbara Barak on July 8, 2003
Format: Hardcover
This is a superlative book on many levels. The inquiry into many mysteries surrounding Easter Island is extremely fascinating and thoroughly researched. Scientific issues are discussed in a compelling way that makes the reader understand and enjoy each new revelation, almost like a mystery being solved on C.S.I. At the same time, the two female protagonists are beautifully presented, and although seperated by several generations, their stories become interwoven in the issues that they struggle with in their inner and external lives. As a psychologist I found the description of Alice, the autist and possibly brain-damaged sister of Elsa, as well as their relationship to each other, remarkably and authentically presented. The issues related to women at different ages struggling to become respected scientific researchers are extremely well portrayed. Vanderbes's ability to interweave a myrid of topics- interpersonal, geographical, scientific and historical, is truly amazing.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Debos on July 6, 2003
Format: Hardcover
I don't understand the poor reviews of this incredible and vital novel. The characters were very compelling, their stories poignant, but even more the history, the scientific research, the mystery of Easter Island itself would have been enough to hold my attention. But then I am not put off by the science, and instead relish it. I wish more books of fiction were this well thought out and included this much science. After reading WOMEN IN THE FIELD there's a whole goldmine of future novels like this one. The way the two stories finally mesh was a sad but satisfying ending. Wonderful, I look forward to more.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By ellen close on April 12, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This is a curious and unpredictable novel that could almost be true, for all the Easter Island studies that are its bedrock. It begins with the threads of 3 lives, and deftly spins them into a compelling tale. The first thread is German battleship Admiral von Spee, whose fleet of 8 ships is trying to avoid capture by Allied forces. The second thread is Elsa, a young woman left penniless upon the death of her father, whose plans for the future require caring for her younger sister who suffers from a form of retardation called amentia. And the third is Greer, a dedicated pollen research analyst. How these disparate lives join across space and time at Easter Island is quite a masterful combination of science and storytelling. The barren landscape and mystery of the tumbled statues are investigated and described, and come to symbolize an ancient and unknown culture with parallels to the future hopes and hidden pasts of the various players. The writing is enchanting, with humor, vivid imagery, and poetic expression. The scientific foundation is central to the story, and essential to the characters. This exceptional story will leave you wishing for a plane ticket and your own research grant.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Jane Roper on June 25, 2003
Format: Hardcover
As a fan of anthropology, history, and tales of "exotic" places, I found this to be a great read, with enough suspense and complexity to keep me turning pages, as well as an abundance of fascinating scientific and historical information. I was in constant thrall of Vanderbese's storytelling ability and the amount of research she obviously did for this project.
I only wish I'd been as captivated by the two main characters themselves, Elsa and Greer. Vanderbese works very hard in her prose to try to help us know who they are -- lots of careful psychological explanations for why they act and feel certain ways -- and yet they still don't quite feel like real, fleshed out people to me.
But this wouldn't keep me from recommending the book highly to anyone -- it's a transporting, cinematic, engrossing story, elegantly told.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By J. Smith on January 23, 2006
Format: Paperback
Not usually a fan of historical fiction, I found this book to be exciting and mysterious. It's a fascinating look at a strange island that gives you details and facts without letting the story get bogged down in them. It also examines the values of feminism without feeling preachy or forced, by drawing you into the unique lives of the sisters and Greer. I'd recommend it to almost anyone as an easy and enjoyable read.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Chrissy K. McVay VINE VOICE on February 24, 2006
Format: Paperback
I almost walked past this one, and that would've been a tragedy. Just above the surface of Easter Island's legendary intrigue, the author also skips several stories across the water like stones. The relationships are beautifully portrayed and the eras are easy to separate. How does one combine dedication and loyalty to love, family, and the passion for what one feels is their mission in life? This is a novel that I wouldn't walk past if you want a great read.

Chrissy K. McVay

author of 'Souls of the North Wind'
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 24, 2003
Format: Hardcover
I loved this book! It is thoughtful and intelligent, yet totally captivating. Beautifully written, it skillfully blends the perfect balance of history and science with intriguing stories of the two heroines. On finishing the book, I was driven to read more about Easter Island, the moai, rongorongo, Katherine Routledge and Vice Admiral Graf von Spee. I hope the author is planning to write a second novel -- I shall look forward to it.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A.B. VINE VOICE on August 26, 2010
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I can't believe I waited so long to read this book. Don't judge a book by it's boring cover because this book is wonderful. It's got the perfect mix of science, history, and romance. I read lots of science fiction, but it seems rare to find scientific fiction books, so this was a nice treat.

Easter Island overlaps the stories of 2 women from different times who travel to Easter Island. One is a woman who accompanies an early English explorer to the island. The other woman is on Easter Island to study its history through pollen. Both are in dysfunctional romantic relationships that ultimately lead them to the island and to their futures.

I found it interesting that the author chose to set the story in the early 1900s and in the 1960s so that we could make discoveries about Easter Island along with the women. What are the secrets to the wooden tablets with mysterious writing on them? Why are there almost no trees on the island? What was the purpose of the giant statues on the island and how were they moved from one location to another without trees?

Upon finishing this novel, I immediately put the author's next book on my wish list even though it doesn't seem like something I'd normally be interested in reading. Yes, this book is that good.
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