Ewan Fraser, a London solicitor, is a lifelong bachelor in his fifties. One day, on his way to work he spies a familiar face at the station which prompts him to make an uncharacteristically spontaneous decision. He will return to the Hebridean island of Barra to seek closure for the summer of 1982. The summer, when he was only thirteen years old, that he was sent to Barra from his home city of Glasgow to stay with his aunt and uncle to spare him the trauma of watching his mother die.
Now, with brief notice to his co-workers, and his current girlfriend/partner, Lisa, he leaves immediately, before he has the chance to change his mind.Ewan arrives in Barra to find that the island is only slightly changed from that of his youth. With only the minimal of investigation he also finds his childhood friend, Laura Robertson.
Will he finally tell Laura the secret he has kept now for forty years?
First of all, I have to say that this novel speaks eloquently to the author’s love of the Isle of Barra. Only eleven miles long and six miles wide, I feel almost as if I’ve visited there for a short while. I’ve always wanted to live on an island, so island settings of all sorts are a huge draw for me.
I very much enjoyed the parts of the book which flashed back to the summer of 1982. Despite Ewan’s worry about his mother and father back home, with the help of his newfound friend Laura, he experienced some respite and childish joy in his freedom to roam the island and its beautiful beaches. The tentative friendship of Ewan and Laura with the outcast boy Billy Matheson was one that would probably only happen in such an isolated setting.“On the surface everything seemed friendly and quaint on this island. Everyone knew each other and got along and was part of the community and looked out for each other. Except for those that were cast out for some reason.”
Billy Matheson and his young mother, Mhairi, were shunned from the social gatherings on the island. The book delves into how an insular community reacts to scandal. Also, it explores how adult ‘secrets’ can impact the young and how childhood memories can have a rosy tint.
With a pace as slow as a child’s summer’s day, “The Barra Boy” was a thoughtful combination of literary fiction and coming-of-age novel, and will undoubtedly remain in my memory for a long while.
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 The Book Guild via NetGalley.
Iain Kelly lives in East Kilbride, near Glasgow in Scotland, where he spends most of his time raising his twin son and daughter. In his spare time he works as an editor of television programmes. After 17 years with the BBC, he has recently moved to join Savalas Post in Glasgow. When he’s not doing either of those things he writes stories, reads stories and watches stories.
His first novel, A Justified State, was published in late 2018, and the follow-up, State Of Denial, was released in 2019. The conclusion to ‘The State’ trilogy, ‘State Of War’, was released in May 2020. ‘The State Trilogy’ books are available in paperback and eBooks from a number of online retailers.
A collection of early short pieces, Collected Sketches, was published in late 2016 and is available on Amazon.
His latest book, ‘The Barra Boy,’ was published by The Book Guild Ltd in June 2022. It’s available to from a wide range of online booksellers.