Book review: The Stolen Child by Lisa Carey

12 Jan

stolen childSt Brigid’s is a remote island off the west coast of Ireland. It is a barren place and its small community is dwindling. But according to rumour it is a magical place, home to a healing well.

Two sisters, Rose and Emer, have resisted the call of the mainland. Rose is beautiful, blessed with love and many children. Emer is unlovely and, worse still, she is cursed by the strange currents that run through her fingers.

When a dazzling stranger alights on St Brigid’s, she is shunned. She has come in search of a miracle, and the islanders keep their secrets close. But gradually she insinuates her way into the sisters’ lives, and even Emer opens her heart.

Little do they realise that her quest will endanger the lives of all who remain on the island. Passion will endanger everything they hold dear.

Stories that blur the lines between worlds always intrigue me and I was initially drawn to read The Stolen Child by the elements of magic and mystery in it. This is a captivating story that moves seamlessly between the harsh realities of  life on a tiny island off the coast of Ireland and the legends, superstitions, customs and varied beliefs of its inhabitants. The two elements create a story that is equal parts fable, fairytale, mystery and romance and as soon as I started reading I was captivated.

The Stolen Child stands out as original, heartfelt and beautifully written. The story opens with a prologue set in May 1960 as the occupants of St Brigid’s Island are about to leave their homes for the final time to be evacuated to a bright new housing estate on the mainland. In this short prologue we are introduced to the history and geography of the island and to sisters Rose and Emer, a pair who contrast as only sisters can in both looks and temperament. The story then steps back to explain the events of the last year on the island that have led to the evacuation starting with the arrival of the island’s namesake, American, Brigid.

Brigid and Emer are the leads of the story and their relationship is the catalyst for the events that take place throughout the year. Both are fascinating characters and I enjoyed finding out about their individual histories, experiences and motivations as I read. Chapters in the novel’s present (1959) are interspersed by flash backs to both Brigid and Emer and Rose’s childhoods and I enjoyed how Lisa slowly revealed the events that had made them the women they are when they meet.

Entwined in their stories are legends, fables and stories told to them by their mothers and passed down through generations. Lisa Carey cleverly mixes the fact with the fable and superstition to create a story that is part dark fairytale, part history and part heartbreaking truth. I was struck by Lisa’s wonderful and honest words on motherhood and the bonds that mothers can have with their children. This is a book that examines all aspects of parenthood and particularly motherhood from those abundantly blessed to those who part with their children and those who desperately want a child and are unable. Brigid’s and Emer’s stories took me through the full cycle of emotions as I read.

And as individual stories play out there’s a bigger story taking form in the looming change to the islanders lives. Carey was inspired to write The Stolen Child by the story of the evacuation of the island Inishark and she beautifully captures the highs and lows of living in an inhospitable place where residents are at the mercy of the weather and have no means of communicating with the mainland – even in an emergency. Situations which come to life in beautiful shows of community and celebration but also stark horror during the story.

A magical, thoughtful and impactful read that introduced me to a wonderful new author. I’m looking forward to discovering Lisa Carey’s previous novels in future.

4/5

The Stolen Child is released today (12th January) in hardback and ebook formats published by Weidenfeld & Nicholson.

I’d like to thank the publisher for providing a review copy of this book.

Find out more about Lisa and her writing at: http://www.lisacareybooks.com/

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