Wednesday, 5 December 2012

fifty-eight.

Island of Wings by Karin Altenberg (2011)

 Reverend MacKenzie and his pregnant wife, Lizzie, are about to move to the remote community of St. Kilda in 1830. The inhabitants have been described as heathen and filthy and he can't wait to show them the right way. 

But the life on St. Kilda is tough. The harsh weather conditions and the fact that it is so remote from the rest of Scotland mean that ships rarely come. And when the ships fail to show up, the inhabitants have to live with what the nature provides and that isn't much. Their main ingredient is sea fowl. Most newborn babies die of the 8 day sickness. Lizzie loses more than one baby and the relationship between her and her husband goes astray. But worst of all for the reverend is that the inhabitants are reluctant to believe in the words of God.

Reverend MacKenzie and his wife Lizzie did live on St. Kilda from 1830 to 1943 and Karin has done a great job fictionalising their lives. She has described the islands so well that when I discovered the map after reading the book, it looked exactly how I pictured it. It was a fascinating read and I felt that I learnt a lot about the history of St. Kilda. 

I have been fascinated by the isles after reading about it in my absolute favourite book Atlas of Remote Islands.  Sarah Moss has also written a great book about St. Kilda, Night Waking, where she mixes past and present life on the isles.

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