Book Review: The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

Book Review: The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

I adored The Nightingale, the first book of Hannah’s that I’d read, so snapped this one up when I spotted it on the shelves in my fave book store in Byron and devoured it in one delicious reading binge. Having taken us on a heartbreaking journey to occupied France in The Nightingale, this time she takes us to the wilds of Alaska and a very different tale.  So, if you’re thinking of giving it a whirl, here’s my review of Kristin Hannah’s The Great Alone.

The Great Alone – the title inspired from a poem about Alaska called “The Shooting of Dan McGrew” by Robert W. Service – is a beautifully multilayered story, telling the interwoven tales of the Albright family (Ernt, Cora and Leni) as they make the bold decision to start a new life in Alaska in 70s America. It’s a tale of destructive love and domestic abuse as the unhealthily relationship between Ernt and Cora starts to disintegrate; survivalism as they try to build a life and future in a bleak landscape; and the coming of age of teenage Leni who meets and falls in love with their new neighbour’s son, the love affair which will trigger a series of events and will change all of their lives forever.

So, what did I love about The Great Alone?

I loved the place and time that it was set in, even more so when I realised that this is a story from the heart, as like the novel’s heroine Leni, Hannah and her family moved to Alaska in the 70s and she still feels a connection to the state.   This was no Sitka as portrayed in Sandra Bulloch’s The Proposal: cute and chocolate-box, small-town America; this was raw frontierism and depicts a basic and brutal way of life.

I particularly loved the first part of the story – their beginnings ‘off the grid’ and acclimatising to the harsh landscape, with the onslaught of their first brutal winter and precarious grip on survival mirrored by Ernt’s descent into PTSD – fueled mania, depression and violence.

After reading a few reviews (about the novel) online, it copped some criticism for being a bit simplistic, but I really like Hannah’s style; I care about her characters, the locations and periods of history transport me and that’s what I’m looking for. I read this on holiday in Byron, couldn’t put it down and sobbed at the end and as the tale unfolded; not the ugly gulps that accompanied the ending of The Nightingale but hey, who needs to be a blubbing mess every time you finish a book?!

My only criticism is that when I finished the novel, I was left wanting more.  I liked the device of the story moving forward in leaps of time but would have liked more; more detail, depth and answers.  And no spoilers here, but I was a bit surprised by the 2 key events which turned everything on its head, and you could say that the end was a wee bit simplistic.

But would I recommend it – hell yes – Kristin Hannah is rapidly turning into one of my new fave authors and I’ll definitely be working my way through her earlier works this year.

And if this genre isn’t your cup of tea, or you’re looking for other recommendations, head on over to my  Books section as there’s something for everyone over there.

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