A Swift Pure Cry
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A Swift Pure Cry

3.73 of 5 stars 3.73  ·  rating details  ·  1,200 ratings  ·  169 reviews
Ireland 1984.

After Shell's mother dies, her obsessively religious father descends into alcoholic mourning and Shell is left to care for her younger brother and sister. Her only release from the harshness of everyday life comes from her budding spiritual friendship with a naive young priest, and most importantly, her developing relationship with childhood friend, Declan, wh...more
Paperback, 320 pages
Published September 9th 2008 by David Fickling Books (first published March 2nd 2006)
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There are slight spoilers hovering around in this review… I’m going to try and not spoil it outright but if you don’t want to know anything about it… here’s the short version:read it read it read it.

“Together always. Free… And their lives ahead of them, around them, spilling from them as they screamed Whoooooooooo like three demented owls. What joy it was to be, what joy.”

Initial Final Page Thoughts.
Breath taken and hairs on the back of my neck standing up… wowowow. This book was spectacular.

Cross-posted with my tumblr .

How can I describe "A Swift Pure Cry"? Certainly not in terms that are often applied to books.






This is the story of Shell, short for Michelle, a 16-year old girl who, in 1984, deals with the aftermath of her mother's death and the consequences of her father's drinking/religious awakening. She finds comfort in the friendship of a young pastor, Father Rose, not realizing that their interactions spike a scandal which rock...more
The one thing that stands out for me throughout this book is how a child is lost without its mother, compounded by a father who is absent most of the time. A lot of the things that happened would not have happened if there was a mother in the story - a depressed father, three children who only have one another for looking after, a pregnancy that happened just a little after the young teener learned about bra sizes, the death of an innocent infant.

Stories such as this one hits me to the core. It...more
Oct 07, 2007 Marilyn rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition Recommends it for: 9th grade and up
Dowd writes beautifully with a very Irish feel to her words. This story touched me deeply especially because Shell seemed like such a real person.
I grabbed this one up because the author of A Monster Calls, a book that a number of people held in awe, said he had worked the idea from Siobhan Dowd, who had died before being able to do so herself.

While it's lovely and flits with very large heavinesses, I think I don't connect with an essentially Irish story. There are themes that are worldwide - the parent-hunger, faith and its lack, poverty, cattiness, teen pregnancy - but how it's dealt with in that kind of community with those reactions,...more
Jennifer Wardrip
Reviewed by Sally Kruger, aka "Readingjunky" for TeensReadToo.com

After her mother died, fifteen-year-old Shell is left to take care of her younger brother and sister and her drunken father. They live in a small Irish village in a little farmhouse. Her mother's death has caused her father to drink even more than he did before, and in sudden religious zeal, he goes out daily to make his "collections." These donations are meant for the church, but he takes out more than his fair share before turnin...more
Siobhan Dowd writes with such poignanacy about lost souls, people who struggle to survive on a daily basis. What makes me care so much about her heroes is that they are strong, they don't whine about their lot in life, they just figure out how to live anyway.

When I first began this book, I was tempted to quit when the parish priest was introduced. (Before reading a book, I try to avoid reading anything about the plot, so I can start fresh, no opinion ahead of time.)So I thought, no, not another...more
Watermelon Daisy
A Swift Pure Cry is one of my favourite books of all time.

There’s no overlooking the beauty, the perfection of this story. A book which surprised me in the most heartbreaking way, and caused me to come close to tears. I’ve noticed Siobhan Dowd always does this with her stories: starts off with a plotline which is hard to get into, has a main character I don’t particularly care about and somehow pushes me through the pages, even though I lose will to read on.

But by the end of the book, I’m close...more
Bog Child remains my favorite, possibly for the hopefulness of tone. Cry is more about loss of faith - for Shell, Father Rose, Da...pretty much everyone. And I don't know that any of them find it again. The ghost in this story is Shell's mam, who died the year before, and she wanders throughout as the Bog Child does in that book, providing a glimmer of...hope is the wrong word here. Patience may be closer. There is a certain amount of patience required for hope, I suppose.

The language is still s...more
"Ein reiner Schrei" ist ein zartes, aber gleichzeitig sehr heftiges Buch, das offenbar mit viel Liebe geschrieben wurde. Während des Lesens konnte ich nicht anders, als die Worte in mich aufzusaugen. Siobhan Dowds Schreibstil ist sehr angenehm und außergewöhnlich. Sie schafft mit wenigen Worten beeindruckende Bilder, die in sekundenschnelle im Kopf erscheinen und dann nicht mehr verschwinden wollen. Für Gefühle benötigt sie wenige Worte - dennoch denkt man als Leser, man sei die Hauptperson. Ich...more
Même si j'étais plutôt perplexe au début, je dois admettre que ce livre est très beau mais assez particulier. Il convient surtout aux jeunes et aux adultes.
Le roman aborde différent thèmes, notamment la mort, mais je n'en dirai pas plus car c'est intéressant de découvrir toute l'histoire par soi-même.

J'ai beaucoup apprécié l'héroïne, Shell, une fille de 15 ans mais qui en paraît beaucoup moins. Sa relation à la fois tendre et complice avec son frère et sa soeur est très touchante.
En fait, Shell...more
Shell,a teenager in modern Ireland, is trying to raise her two siblings after her mother dies. Her father, not too stable under the best of circumstances, has really fallen apart since the death of Shell's mother. Shell is doing the best she can, but she is struggling and confused. The best thing happening for her is her on-again off-again relationship with a good looking boy from her neighborhood. It is clear to many people in her village that Shell is having a harder and harder time keeping th...more
I could tell this was a good book, but for some reason I couldn't understand it. I could see the big picture and some of the smaller details, but it seemed like some other things were missing. Shell was pregnant, yet she never went to a doctor. People saw that she was pregnant, but never helped her. Two young children delivered her baby? She didn't know her baby was dead when Rose was born. Why was her father brought in originally as a suspect, not a guardian?
If anyone has these answers please t...more
Just from the title, I knew that this was going to be a delicately written book, with a well-crafted storyline and full of beautiful imagery, and the novel definitely met my expectations. The story follows a teenager, struggling to support her unstable father and two young siblings after her mother's death, set against the backdrop of a small Irish community. It is also about the fine lines between anger and love, sorrow and joy.
Caitlín (Ink Mage)
I was really looking forward to reading this book, but when I finally got a copy I was VERY disappointed. Reviewers give this book high praise, but I felt like I was only watching Shell's story unfold from miles away...and falling asleep while I did. I never felt anything for the characters, never cared about them, and was happy when I was finished with it.
Siobhan Dowd's superb, melancholy first novel about 15YO Shell (Michelle) who tenderly mothers her younger brother and sister after her dear Mam dies and her father's alcoholism worsens. Shell comes of age, becomes pregnant and delivers her baby the hard way, nearly all by herself, with complex, dramatic and transforming results. I miss you, Siobhan.
Ann Marie
I loved the story - hated the read..... every time I got deep into it there would be a word spelled strange or a paragraph that went absolutely nowhere and I would be involuntarily pulled from the book and back into my reading chair....I really hated that....but I really enjoyed the story itself
Katrina Southern
Siobhan Dowd's 'A Swift Pure Cry' is certainly one of those rare gems you find when you least expect it. It tells the story of Shell, a young girl left to care for her two siblings after her mother dies and her Father descends further and further into alcoholism as a result. Having found solace in her friendship with a young Priest, and a different kind of escape with a local boy, it isn't long before the inevitable happens and Shell finds herself at the centre of a local scandal.

Everything abou...more
Terri Trimble
This is a beautiful, heartbreaking but ultimately life-affirming book. It tells the story of Shell, whose mother has died and father has become religiously obsessed, leaving Shell to look after the house and her younger brother and sister. When her mother died Shell lost her religious faith, but the arrival of a young priest, Father Rose, in her small Irish town inspires her to see the divine in her everyday existence.

The novel believably portrays the relationships between the characters: Shell...more
Hickman Students
Who is the father of Shell’s baby? In A Swift Pure Cry by Siobhan Dowd, fifteen year old Michelle “Shell” Talent lives in County Cork, Ireland with her father and her two younger siblings. Shell’s mother has died and it’s her responsibility to take care of her family. Siobhan Dowd had won many awards for her writing, including the 2007 Branford Boase Award for outstanding novel for younger teens. In this story, Shell becomes pregnant by somebody she knew and who leaves her alone and pregnant. Th...more
In the beginning of this book Shell finds her faith again because of a new priest. That part actually had me wanting to put it down. She was comparing herself to Jesus a lot.
Then the "main thing" happens and I was drawn in enough to finish the rest in one sitting.
***Big Time spoilers**

A Swift Pure Cry was inspired by two separate incidents in Ireland. The first event occurred in 1984 when a fifteen-year-old girl died from blood loss and exposure while trying to give birth on her own. Critics b...more
I would probably give this book 3.5 stars if I could. The problem with Siobhan Dowd's writing (and this book suffered from it as well) is that it takes a long time to really get into the story. Once I was into it though, I couldn't put it down.

16-year-old Shell's father has gone a little nuts since Shell's mother died a year and a half ago. Drinking almost non-stop, living off of "collecting for the church", and constantly going to church (forcing his kids along with him whenever he can) leaves...more
I read such great reviews about this book years ago and I'd been waiting to read it for a long time but I was somewhat disappointed by it. I was a little bit bored at times with the momentum of the story. It didn't seem to get to the point fast enough for me. I don't fault the author because I know she was buidling up the backdrop and the characters, but I found myself not really caring about the daily routine of Shell and her siblings and father. The dialect was distracting. I kept wondering if...more
I originally picked up this book having no idea what it was about as I was drawn to the picture that was on the spine and the cover. I have a thing for covers that make me think "what the hell is that?" and since the blurb is quite vague, I picked it up for the cover.

I was going to file this under DNF because the first chapter is full of Catholicism when Shell refinds her faith when a new priest gives mass at her church. I do believe in God, but even that was a bit too much for me. I don't mind...more
A Swift Pure Cry follows Shell, a girl growing up in 80's Ireland, as she grows older, learns the ups and downs of life, and faces some important events and choices.

Sorry if my synopsis of this novel isn't adequate. But I just couldn't sum up A Swift Pure Cry in one sentence and do it justice. This novel was amazingly well-written and well-constructed.

Admittedly, Siobhan Dowd had a writing style that, at first, was hard to get into. I was only just barely following the story during the first hal...more
Haley Baker
The novel begins with an introduction of the main character, Shell. Shell’s mother has died, and now Shell must take care of her drunken father and mother her little brother and sister. The troubles of the 16 year old experiences are parallel to the challenges of a typical teenager. Students who read this novel will find it easy to relate with Shell and instantly will imagine what their lives would look like if they were Shell. In school, Shell struggles to fit in with friends and constantly is...more
Fifteen year old Shell Talent does not have much time for school and church after her mam died leaving her to take care of her dad and younger brother and sister, Jimmy and Trix. Dad has given up working, taken up drinking, and found religion and collects money for the church from which he skims some for himself, leaving Shell to care for the children and try to make ends meet. The story takes place in Coolbar a small village in Ireland in 1984 and is loosely based on a true account. A new young...more
"If anger and love went together, like Father Rose had said, it must mean that she loved her dad"

And in that moment another book broke my heart.

There was something about this novel, I think it was a mixture of Plot, narration and the relationships between the characters which made it feel so real. You see the ups and downs of our narrator; Shell as grows up and as her relationships shift and change with her father, siblings, Father Rose and her childhood friend Declan and however choice and the...more
Shell Talent has a tough life. Her mother has died, her father is an alcoholic who has become obsessed with religion and terrorizes his children. Shell must be mother, father and a teen in the south of Ireland in 1084. When she becomes pregnant by her classmate Declan who then runs away to American, Shell can't bear to get an abortion, she hides her pregnancy from her father, friends, & those in her village. But she cannot hide it from her brother and sister. So one night, she gives birth an...more
This book started out chock full of jealousy-inducing descriptions, but then it turned into a somewhat typical melodrama. The setting is a small Catholic town in Ireland sometime between 1960 and 2000. The author rode the usual merry-go-round of problems, including the loss of a mother, a pregnant teen, a drunk father, and a wayward priest. I'm not sure I would recommend this to teens; the tone is much more adult than expected, and it never seemed to pull away from the microscopic descriptions t...more
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Teen Critic: A Swift Pure Cry - Siobhan Dowd-----> July 10th 1 9 Jul 06, 2013 02:26PM  
The Ultimate Teen...: A Swift Pure Cry - Siobhan Dowd 3 8 May 11, 2013 11:01PM  
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Siobhan Dowd was born to Irish parents and brought up in London. She spent much of her youth visiting the family cottage in Aglish, County Waterford and later the family home in Wicklow Town.
She attended a Catholic grammar school in south London and then gained a degree in Classics at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford University. After a short stint in publishing, she joined the writer's organization PEN...more
More about Siobhan Dowd...
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