Publisher : Canongate
Publication date : 30th January 2020
Twenty years ago, Oona left the island of Inis for the very first time. A wind-blasted rock of fishing boats and turf fires, where girls stayed in their homes until they became mothers themselves, the island was a gift for some, a prison for others. Oona was barely more than a girl, but promised herself she would leave the tall tales behind and never return.
The Island Child tells two stories: of the girl who grew up watching births and betrayals, storms and secrets, and of the adult Oona, desperate to find a second chance, only to discover she can never completely escape. As the strands of Oona’s life come together, in blood and marriage and motherhood, she must accept the price we pay when we love what is never truly ours . . .
Rich, haunting and rooted in Irish folklore, The Island Child is a spellbinding debut novel about identity and motherhood, freedom and fate, and the healing power of stories.
I was really excited to get my hands on a proof of #TheIslandChild by debut novelist Molly Aitken. Canongate secured the world publishing rights to this book last year, and excitement has been mounting about it in the book world. NB Magazine chose it as their Editors Pick for January, and it’s been mentioned by The Independent, The Irish Independent, Scottish Book Trust, Foyles and Cunning Folk Magazine as one to watch out for in 2020!
Island Child is a book which explores the life of Oona, a young girl who grows up on a remote island off the coast of Ireland, but who leaves the island as a teenager to live in Canada. The novel has a dual timeline, the first of which follows Oona’s birth and early life. In the other we find Oona as an adult, her own daughter having gone missing, and while she and her husband search their local area, Oona begins to sense that she knows her daughter’s whereabouts, and feels she is the one who has driven her away.
Young Oona lives a very sheltered life on the island of Inis in the Atlantic. This small fishing community is close knit and steeped in religion, superstition and suspicion – not a great mix when you are a young, curious child, keen to explore what life has to offer. As the only girl in the family (with two older brothers), Oona’s mother tries her best to keep her close to home and to instil in her beliefs in Our Lady and the power of fairy folk. But Oona feels suffocated by her mother’s desire to protect her; she is bursting with life and curious about the people and the world around her. She is particularly drawn to two ‘outsiders’, Aislinn and her son Felim, who are viewed with suspicion by the other islanders.
Adult Oona is a lost soul. She lives in Canada, miles from the ocean and is desperately unhappy. Her husband Pat tries in earnest to make her happy, but Oona will not find peace in Canada. She must return to her childhood home in order to lay her ghosts to rest.
Mysteries abound in this book, but the real joy is in the narration. Molly Aitken paints the most beautiful images with her words, transporting the reader to a world steeped in folklore and myth. But Oona’s life is no fairy tale; there’s a darkness to this story.
The Island Child is a gem of a book, sure to delight fans of writers like Jess Kidd. It explores themes of motherhood and isolation and poses the question: Can we ever escape our past?
Many thanks to Canongate for my review copy of this novel. You can check out the other bloggers thoughts by following the reviews on the blog tour:
About Molly Aitken:
Molly Aitken was born in Scotland in 1991 and brought up in Ireland. She has an MA in Creative Writing from Bath Spa where she won the Janklow and Nesbit Prize.
The Island Child is her first novel.
Molly now lives in Sheffield with her husband where is works as an editor and ghost writer.
Follow Molly on twitter at @MollyAitken1 and on Instagram: molly.aitken