I have had this on my physical shelf for years. I originally bought it on sale and it didn’t come with a dust jacket so there wasn’t much to go on. I only knew it’s a dystopian setting on the Scottish Isles. I tried a chapter earlier this year with the hopes of not being interested and, therefore, unhauling it. That didn’t work out as planned…
by Jess Richards
Synopsis by GoodReads
Set on an isolated island off the Scottish coast, in a community run by women who are in awe of a mysterious structure called the Thrashing House, the novel is narrated by two teenage girls in very different circumstances. Mary is doing her best to protect her younger brother, Barney, as the island’s sons are mysteriously disappearing. Morgan is scheming to escape the prison her parents have made of their home. The two girls unite, each on a desperate mission in which secrets will be revealed and lives changed forever.
The written language for Mary
Dark turn to the story
It’s a weird read. But at the same time, it was so well written that it was also a lovely read. I wasn’t expecting that book to take the dark turn it did. The four leaves I gave it is based on this turn and the quality of writing throughout the entire book.
The story is dual perspective and narrated by two people of different origins: Mary and Morgan.
Mary is of the island people and trades with the tall men for a living. It’s her baby brother who gets taken and she tries to figure out why and where he is while avoiding ending up at the Thrashing House. Along the way, she discovers secrets of the island and the islanders she doesn’t want to know. Along with a secret she herself forgot. Her search for the brother ends up being a search for something more.
Morgan is from the family who moves to the island from the mainland to try and get away. Her job in the house is to cook and clean, though she only does it because no-one else likes doing it and if she doesn’t do it there will be no food. She is plotting her escape every single day. She tries to cope with the daily mental changes in her mother while dreaming of getting back to the mainland and her real home.
Morgan and Mary cross paths and their lives intertwine.
Considering the story takes place on a very isolated island not much building is needed as the world isn’t big. There is some building going on though as Morgan moved from the mainland to the island in flashbacks. As well as the tall men always bring exotic fruits and stuff to trade with them. The exotic fruit and the rice indicates there is a bigger world out there. But at the same time, the characters don’t need the bigger world and neither do you as a reader. When Mary holds up a kiwi not knowing what to do with it, how to cook it or who to feed it to so she left it on the counter until it smelt like death, just says it all. Or when she gets rice and doesn’t know what to do with it, eating it raw takes too much effort and gives her stomach ache. There are more important things going on here than the surrounding world. Like when all the boys “being took“, as she calls it (I loved the accent she has been given in her narrated text (more below)).
Having said that, the island in a very interesting place, especially with the introduction of the Thrashing House and the Sishee. There are a lot of stories being told and remembered as that is the way their culture is, to verbally pass on stories.
The only way for me to know it’s a dystopian world is the ware the tall men bring to the island, if it wasn’t for that I would have guessed this to be a magical realism on a Scotish island. The effect of the subtle explanation of the trading is great. If you read deeper between the lines you come to understand some of the dystopian parts of this world and the level of degradation to some extent.
There is no set magic system but it’s clear that there is weird stuff happening. By weird I mean weird stuff to me. The narrator clearly is not surprised at all when she heard voices in her head or sees other peoples memories. I liked it. It was weird but very well done. I wasn’t asking questions about it or being confused, it was portrayed almost as something beautiful but common.
Mary is an interesting character. I really liked Mary and really felt for her at the end. She has not had an easy life and she is a very strong character. She does what is needed to do to get things done.
Morgan has been sheltered her entire life and comes across as naive. She tries to escape often but gets locked in by the parents. Her relationship with her mother, who is suffering from some sort of mental issue that is not entirely explained, evolves throughout the story as Morgan figures out who she is and what she felt is the right thing to do.
The story explores mother-daughter issues and the role of the dad. Both women have issues with their mothers and their mothers have issues with their mothers again. However, their dad is always the good guy but also not as important as the mother. It’s an interesting dynamic.
I have to say the level of detail in Mary’s narration and her Scottish accent that comes through on the page, and not just in the dialogue, is amazing. It’s in everything she does and says and thinks. It’s so well done! I would recommend the book on that alone.
I actually really liked it and the turns at the end surprised me. It was entertaining and weird.
I liked the writing style and I might pick up another by her.
Have you read this? What did you think?