Fictional Drama / Romance/ alternative
Algiers / Spain
Innocent and full of idealistic dreams, Isabel Fontaine envisions her life as one that will be a happily ever after. However, it does not take Moyes long to reveal that Isabel’s fate and destiny is to marry the husband of her father’s choice, a man by the name of Thomas Chastain. As her parents take Isabel to meet her betrothed, tragedy strikes. The ship they are on, the General Chanzy, sinks off the coast of the island of Menorca. The official report is that only one person survived, but the report was wrong. There was a Second Survivor.
Using the sinking of the General Chanzy as the basis for her fictional story, Moyes creates a “what if” tale that indirectly brings to light the rights of women, or lack of, during the early 20th century. Second Survivor is about the choices and sacrifices made by one woman when she tries to escape her destiny; eventually these choices come to affect all those whose lives she touches.
Moyes does a great job constructing a love story with many of the elements of a hero’s journey. While Isabel is the main character, she is portrayed more as the damsel in distress who hopes to be saved by Francisco, the man of her dreams. After Miguel Contreras discovers her washed up on the shores of the island, Isabel realizes that through a horrible, tragedy at sea, she has the means to safeguard her personal freedom. It is at this point that Isabel decides to become Maria.
Second Survivor is told through the eyes of four main characters; however, the number of supporting characters throughout the book seem endless. At times, it is difficult following who did what to whom or with whom. Also confusing is finding out that certain characters are not the people they are depicted to be. This plot twist made me question whether I had missed a detail along the way while learning the slew of secondary characters.
While Moyes starts Isabel’s story with the dreams of a fairy tale romance, it would have been stronger to leave the happily ever after ending to the imaginations of the readers.
Reviewed for Discovering Diamonds
© Cathy Smith