Mr Lloyd has decided to travel to the island by boat without engine – the authentic experience.
Unbeknownst to him, Mr Masson will also soon be arriving for the summer. Both will strive to encapsulate the truth of this place – one in his paintings, the other by capturing its speech, the language he hopes to preserve.
But the people who live on this rock – three miles long and half-a-mile wide – have their own views on what is being recorded, what is being taken and what is given in return. Soft summer days pass, and the islanders are forced to question what they value and what they desire. As the autumn beckons, and the visitors head home, there will be a reckoning.
This book was simply perfect. A slow-building drama that looks at language, art, colonialism, tradition, and the legacy of violence. The story is beautiful, quietly unsettling, and devastating in equal measure. I am going to be thinking about this book for a long, long time.
Two men travel to a secluded Irish island for the summer, each with their own purpose. Lloyd, the Englishman, to work on his artistic masterpiece, and Jean-Pierre, the Frenchman, to study the ‘purity’ of the Gaelic language and how it is changing through the influence of the English language. The men clash heads over their right to be on the island whilst the islanders watch on. Intertwined with the building tension between the islanders and the two foreigners are historically accurate snapshots of deaths during The Troubles. There is so much more to the story than that but there’s no chance I would do any justice in describing it.
I was so immersed in this story. I could not look away. I was drawn into these characters’ lives and experiences. The writing really lent a hand to getting deeply inside these characters’ heads. Magee seamlessly wove internal monologues and dialogue between all characters using different styles depending on which character we are following at the time, giving each their own distinctive voice.
I imagine some readers may find this too slow but the pacing felt perfect to accompany the melancholic island setting, where life follows the same patterns each day and long ago traditions still exist. The story slowly unfolds as the summer passes and as the characters’ stories come together. There are so many individual storylines running throughout this, some come to a close, some come full circle, and others we are left to speculate.
Overall, this novel was incredible, I was absolutely floored by it. So beautifully written with a broad range of stunning characters and an intensely mesmerising and clever plot. I need more books like this in my life.