The Island Child by Molly Aitken
And leave she does, but freedom comes with a heavy price. For years, she has no contact with her family, not even her gentle brother Enda, the kindest of the lot. Nor can she escape the island that lives on inside her and the traumatic event of the night before she left. All too soon, she’s a mother herself, without the inner resources to give her daughter love she was denied.
Joyce, now nineteen, has discovered a secret Oona never meant to share. Her daughter’s disappearance drags her back to her native land. Will she find forgiveness, consolation, a second chance?
Debut novelist’s Molly Aitken’s prose is stylish, and Oona’s first impressions of the world beyond her homeland are beautifully evoked. But, overall, the story and characters didn’t engage me as much as I’d hoped. Part of the reason might have been that I couldn’t work out when it was set until quite close to the end. It might also have been due to picking it up too soon after The Mercies by Kiran Millwood Hargrave, another story of claustrophobic island life. Thanks to Canongate for my review copy.
The Slaughterman’s Daughter by Yaniv Iczkovits translated by Orr Sharf
Fanny is aided and abetted in her quest in a pair of former soldiers, abducted as children, and forced to renounce their Jewish faith. Along with a hapless Cantor, they’re soon wanted for murder and pursued by almost the entire Russian army and the secret police. No-one imagines Fanny could be implicated, but she does possess an unusual skill learned from her father, owner of Grodno’s most successful abattoir.
This epic 500 page historical adventure story sparkles with tension and humour as it tracks Jewish culture and anti-Semitism within the Russian Empire. With a large cast of characters, most with their own intriguing back story, and multiple twists and turns, it’s a hard novel to categorise. For me, the dominant theme is obedience versus initiative, as played out in religion, marriage, management and the military; most of all, it’s an entertaining read. Thanks to publishers MacLehose for my review copy.
Set a little later and farther across to the east, as soon as Radzetsky cropped up as a character, I was reminded of another splendid novel in similar territory, The Radzetsky March.
There’s no overlap between my own fictional daughters and either islands or Russia, but the five stories in my freshly-minted e-book explore the role and relationships in multiple ways. You can read them for free by registering for my email newsletter: simply click on the image below!