Jennifer Malec interviews Karen Jennings for the JRB

“I do like Samuel, because he is incredibly human. He is an ordinary man. He has made mistakes; terrible ones. But he is a man trying to find a place for himself in the world, just as we all are. No one is all good or all bad. We are all only trying as best we can to make a home for ourselves in which we feel safe and where we feel we belong. But, of course, this is not determined by ourselves alone. The past plays a role in our identity, as do our economic, social, cultural, political circumstances. All of these things have an influence on us, whether we like to admit it or not.”


Catherine Taylor reviews AN ISLAND by Karen Jennings for the Guardian

“… A lighthouse keeper in self-imposed exile on a tiny island off the mainland, 70-year-old Samuel is disciplined in his daily habits and unchanging in his means of self-sufficiency. He carefully tends his vegetable patch, his only companions a clutch of chickens, with the favourite – an old, vulnerable, red hen – kept away from the vicious larger group. The ultimate fate of the hen and its part in the book’s sudden and violent conclusion lies in the future, but it’s clear that all is not serene on this island …”


Christine Coates reviews AN ISLAND by Karen Jennings

An Island by Karen Jennings — everyone is talking about this book. There are other reviews but had to add mine!
It’s a small gem but also a great masterpiece. Very Coetzeesque. It reminded me of Disgrace. Just brilliant and by one so young. Her observation of human life and behavior is acute. I can’t get it out of my mind.
The author wanted to explore certain complexities relating to the history of the African continent and how that history continues to influence the lives of individuals to this day but the island could be anywhere — off Africa, off South or Central America, off the US, off Australia.


Karin Schimke writes about AN ISLAND by Karen Jennings

… In An Island, specificity is jettisoned, as evidenced by the use of “an” and not “the”. The character is an old man called Samuel who tends to a lighthouse, a colonial remnant, off the coast of an unnamed African country, first clawed at and pawed and squeezed and ravaged by colonial overlords, then sucked dry by the country’s dictatorial “saviour”. Samuel is a nothing, a nobody, uneducated and unheroic, but he has had the one tiny luck of getting a job manning the lighthouse on the island after he is released from decades in a prison for being an enemy of the state (which sounds much grander than his actions were). But even on an island, history and the present catch up: sea creatures, once abundant, dwindle, plastic rubbish dots the landscape…and bodies of refugees wash ashore. There is no escaping the world’s violence, malice, greed and selfishness. And there is no protection from what those do to the self. No man is an island. […]

An Island is bleak and stark, and Jennings writes in plain sentences. I read An Island in what would have been one sitting, had it not been for the interruption of night.

Karin Schimke Instagram

Karen Jennings interviewed by Phumi Ramalepe for Business Insider SA

Karen Jennings

“… Unlike many authors who measure the success of a book based on sales figures, Jennings believes it’s all about how you feel about your work.  

‘For me, it depends on how I feel about any manuscript once I have finally finished writing the various drafts. If I get to the end and feel a thrill pass through me, then I am satisfied,’ she said.

‘I enjoy that feeling because it doesn’t last very long. I think many writers, or artists in general, have this sense that their work is never good enough,’ Jennings added.”

Business Insider SA

Woman Zone CT Review: AN ISLAND by Karen Jennings

“… But having cracked open the slender spine, I found it  to be even more unassuming and quiet – no prologue, no fanfare, no arcane dedication, hand-picked lines of poetry – even the acknowledgements are a mere eight grateful lines – but exquisite in its simplicity.
​‘The First Day’ announces the opening chapter – and with that you step ashore. Onto Samuel’s island. Where he’s been lighthouse keeper for over two decades. Washing up with you is a body – one of many that have found their way onto the pebbly and unwelcoming beach.
You come to know well, if not its exact whereabouts off Africa, the lie of the island, its nooks, crannies, secret spots. As well as Samuel’s sparse, isolated cottage where everything has its place. But you don’t stay there. Because as his memory is jolted by the arrival of this body, this man, Samuel’s reflections take us back into the dark, sometimes troubled past he was marked by on the mainland. Again, Jennings doesn’t pinpoint the exact times and places of this not so long ago time but if you live towards the tip of Africa, you can feel it in your southern bones. Smell it in her carefully chosen words. By ‘The Fourth Day’, I was all but holding my breath.  
I’m ashamed to have taken so long, but richer for reading such a thoughtful book, with a punch way above its weight.” 

Woman Zone CT