The Colony by Audrey Magee

Published: 2022 1. First lines 2. Cover: Allen & Unwin 3. A painter [Public Domain] via Flickr 3. Hauling in the nets [Public Domain] via Rawpixels

An English artist travels to a remote Irish island for the summer to paint the cliffs. Also travelling to the island is a French linguist wanting to record the traditional language of the island. Not only is there conflict between the two visitors, there is conflict between them and the island people. Interspersed throughout the book, the shocking events of the 1979 Northern Ireland conflict are documented.

Imagine that, said Mairéad. A Frenchman and an Englishman squabbling over our turf.

This book passes the test described in The Guardian: “the only test worth applying to any novel: when it’s over, you find yourself thinking about it.” The writing is “fluent and imaginative” (Newtown Review of Books), and I loved the way humour is infused into the characters’ conversations. Shocking events are documented in separate chapters about the “Troubles”, which the islanders hear about on the radio, and which is in contrast to the visitors’ interpretation of the island as unspoiled. The main theme of the book is colonisation, giving the reader much to think about.


“The man, his hair bleached by sun, jumped off the boat and into the water, still in the sea as he shook men’s hands and kissed women’s cheeks, first left, then right. He tousled the boys’ hair and swung the girls into the air, laughter reverberating around the cove. Lloyd pressed his back against the lichen and barnacles and sidled along the cliff, away from the gathering, from the excitement.”

“So, are we ready for a summer of these two men? It’ll be pure entertainment, said Mairéad.”

Author: Audrey Magee

Listen: The Colony reviewed on RTÉ Arena
Listen: Miriam O’Callaghan talks to author Audrey Magee


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