To say this was a disappointing book doesn't even come close to articulating the real heartbreak I felt finishing it. Painted as a female answer to Golding's Lord of the Flies, John Dollar describes the days after eight girls, one woman, and one man are washed ashore on a deserted island off Burma.Writing this review was more challenging than I expected, and I decided to do some quick searching for other thoughts on this novel to see if I was missing some subtle but crucial element. What I discovered quickly is that the release of John Dollar was almost completely overshadowed by a more momentous literary story: the call for death of Wiggins' then-husband, Salman Rushdie.In some ways, I feel like this book is constantly being overshadowed by something more momentous. Wiggins herself seems to be unsure if she is writing an homage to Lord of the Flies or an entirely inventive examination of human nature. (In an interview, Wiggins admits that the landscape she visualized while writing was actually the same scenery from the 1963 film version.)Almost two-thirds of the book is spent setting us up for the coming Shock and Awe. Charlotte, the schoolteacher, is properly liberal and free-thinking enough to gain our sympathy; the various children represent all the stock characters needed for an examination of colonial life: the zealot, the symbiotic twins, the indigenous servant. John Dollar, the itinerant ship captain, is strapping and handsome. The characters cheerfully recall Robinson Crusoe and Kipling; we the reader are constantly bombarded with hints that the Fall is coming.Using a technique that seems more clever than helpful, Wiggins peppers the margins with text from other books and strange subheadings. I found it distracted from an already fractured story. When the Horrific and Shocking events occur, the scenes are so veiled and oblique that they are hard to realize; the oomph never really appears.