“So many lies are built out of a wish to shield the ones we love
from the horror of the truth.”
“Boys were all free while girls were tied to the hearth and kept sleepy inside like gentle calves in spring.”
Growing up on the Aran Island of Inis was a place of loneliness and entrapment for the girl Oona. While her brothers left the cottage every day to accompany their father on his fishing trips, Oona was left at home with her mother, a woman who was stern and uncommunicative. While boys went to school, girls did not as they were needed in the home. The division of labour was strict, the insular life hard. Oona always wanted more from life. She want to escape the confines of her family and her island home.
“I’d seen that if you spoke your bitterness it spread and grew in others too.”
Inis was a place where the parish priest ruled. He taught at the school and was revered for his holiness and his power.
“…truths left unsaid rot like old clams.”
When Oona turns sixteen she experiences a trauma that will colour the entire rest of her life…
Seriously, the blurb had me hooked. An island setting, family secrets, and Ireland. The perfect combination!
I thoroughly enjoyed reading Oona’s story. At times, especially in the parts where Oona was a child on Inis, the book read almost like magical realism. Her innocent childish imaginings coupled with the rich superstitions and beliefs of her countrymen provided an atmospheric look and eerie feel to the novel.
Themes of isolation, loneliness, forgiveness, and loss made for a captivating though melancholy read. A memorable book which was rich in character and setting which told of mothers and children and how the love can be different in each.
An outstanding debut by a young and talented author I will be on the alert for. Recommended!
This review was written voluntarily and my rating was in no way influenced by the fact that I received a complimentary digital copy of this novel from Knopf via Edelweiss.
Publication date: July 28, 2020 Publisher: Knopf (Penguin Random House)
ISBN: 9780525658375 ASIN: B07ZY3LYSP 352 pages
Molly Aitken was born in Scotland in 1991 and brought up in Ireland. She studied Literature and Classics at Galway University and has an MA in Creative Writing from Bath Spa. She was shortlisted for Writing Magazine’s fairy tale retelling prize 2016, and has a story in the Irish Imbas 2017 Short Story Collection.
Currently, she works as an editor and ghostwriter and lives in Sheffield, England. The Island Child is her debut novel.
Follow Molly Aitken on Twitter.