The Island Child by Molly Aitkin

Published: 2020. 1. First lines. 2. Cover: Penguin Random House 3. Celtic cross [Public Domain] via Pixabay 4. Cottage [Public Domain] via Pxhere

This is the story of Oona, born on the tiny island of Inis in the 1950s, a place of fishing boats, sheep, and traditions influenced by myths and folklore. Oona’s life is dominated by her mother, who treats her with a strictness governed by religion, a treatment that her brothers do not experience. Because of these restrictions, Oona leaves the island. Later, after she has moved to Canada and married, she has reasons to return to the island.

“Shall we welcome the child to our island?”

In my experience of reading this book I didn’t feel the same as Kirkus: “A stylish but overburdened fable of suffering and expiation.” Yes, there was much suffering, but the dialogue contained humour, and the descriptions of place and character gave the book an authenticity and vitality that I enjoyed, also noted by the Irish Times: “The success of the book is the vibrancy of its writing and narrative voice…. and character description and dialogue are also notably strong throughout.”


“You never know the reasons behind why a person behaves a certain way. Even if they hurt someone else or do something you can’t understand, then they will have had a reason. You don’t have to forgive them but you may feel lighter in yourself if you do. But sometimes it is too much to forgive.”

I”n the nights when Bridget was gone Mam whispered to me that my badness made me hard to love … Children are sent by God to test and punish us, as everything is. You were a torment in your coming.”

Author: Molly Aitkin

Also published by Penguin Random House and Canongate

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