They say it's coming back. Before long, the moon will find a shadow under the lake. Bubbles will rise and the shadow will spread to a stain. Then, in the night, in the dark, the floating island will surface. Here again. As it was a year ago. The day Tom died. It's almost a year since fifteen-year-old Matt and his younger brother, Tom, rowed out to the island. Matt, confined to a wheelchair and haunted by nightmares, can't remember what happened. Nor does he want to. Only when Sarah Bell, a tough, Geordie girl with a no-nonsense approach, takes up the newly vacant position of Matt's carer, do things begin to change for him. At first, resentful of her presence, he tries to drive her away, but she isn't like the other carers. She isn't like anyone he's ever met. Sarah's attention meanwhile, is focussed on Robert, Matt's psychiatrist. Mature, attractive and a world away from everything she knows, he seems to be exactly what she needs. But Robert, highly skilled at solving other people's problems, is struggling to deal with his own.
As the floating island returns to the surface of the lake, Robert forces Matt to confront the truth about his brother's death, but also, unknowingly, exposes him to an adult world of passion, guilt, and betrayal. Anna Ralph's stunning debut novel is a beautifully-crafted exploration of love, loss, guilt and betrayal; a poignant study of bereavement, of the way excessive intimacy can destroy a relationship just as effectively as distance, and of what it really means to forgive.
Anna Ralph was born in Thornaby-on-tees in 1974. She worked as a bookseller, in public relations, and in journalism before writing full-time. The Floating Island is her first novel. She lives in Durham.