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My rating: *****
Like all of Susan Fletcher’s books, this is a full-on treat for the senses–or, at times, an assault. The story places the reader on the Scottish island of Parla, a place so richly created in every sentence that you can’t help but feel you have known the place intimately since birth. It’s like a mouthful of an Islay malt whisky: salty, peaty, uncompromising. I can feel the sea-spray from every page. Like her previous book, Corrag, it is a masterful evocation of Scotland and all who love the highlands and islands will love this book.
So much for the atmosphere, how about the characters? The book may take its time to get going (a good thing in my view), but the characters are built up to be some of the most human and complex I’ve seen in a book of this type. We feel we know them all intimately by the conclusion, which is both touching and resonant. The major themes running through the veins of the story are important ones: the multifaceted nature of love; the complexity of grief; belief; kindness; and the way in which stories shape our lives without us even realising.
In my opinion this is the most mature of Susan Fletcher’s novels, and also at once the most profound and the one which raises the most questions. Like Corrag, it will stay in my mind long after I turned the final page, and will subtly influence the way I look at the world and think about everything.
I wouldn’t say it’s an easy read, but if you’re looking for something immersive and thought-provoking with a powerful storyline, look no further.