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The Visitors

3.85  ·  Rating details ·  647 Ratings  ·  126 Reviews
In the tradition of Neil Gaiman and Iain Banks, Simon Sylvester brings an ancient myth to life with this lush, atmospheric coming-of-age tale

Nobody comes to the remote Scottish island of Bancree, and seventeen-year-old Flora can't wait to move to the mainland when she finishes school. So when a mysterious man and his daughter move into isolated Dog Cottage, Flora is curiou
Paperback, 368 pages
Published December 29th 2015 by Melville House (first published May 29th 2014)
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Nov 15, 2015 rated it really liked it

there's a sustained haunting quality underlying this novel with a white-noise hum that kinda shivers underneath your skin even after you've finished reading. it's a scottish coming-of-age gothic novel with both fantasy and mystery elements which i know sounds like someone getting a little too greedy at the plot store, but i'm telling you, it works.

part of it is the setting. you give me a sparsely-populated, non-tropical island story with a teenage girl yearning for more life than the geographic
Aug 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: fans of Kate Morton, Susanna Kearsley, Carlos Ruiz Zafon
Recommended to TL by: karen
Shelves: favorites
A wonderfully gothic/dark tale with elements of mystery, thriller, and even magic sprinkled throughout the story. The synopsis does the book justice yet doesn't at the same time, to say any more than what was said would be to take some of the magic away from the story.

I love myths and legends of Ireland and Scotland... there's just something so fascinating about reading these tales. Each story is different in its own way, many with life lessons and undercurrents of menace and peril.

Selkies is o
Arielle Walker
Startlingly good.

I came across this debut novel completely by accident, searching for a similarly named Lee Child book – this is worlds away from Jack Reacher. Drawing deeply from Scottish folklore and myth, in singing prose that is compulsively readable, Sylvester has woven a fantastically dark tale that is equal parts thriller and fantasy. The supernatural aspects in the story were a surprise, the cover blurb having suggested a far more straightforward story, but I really enjoyed the way Sylve
Dale Harcombe
‘The island seemed so safe until people began to disappear’ the cover says. That is enough to get the curiosity going. The cover is also a drawcard.
The island is Bancree and the story is told from the point of view of 17 year old Flora, (Flo) who can’t wait to finish school and leave the island. Her boyfriend has just left the island for university. Around the same time, a man and his daughter Ailsa move to the area and take up residence in the area in Dog Cottage. That is unusual since people n
Book Riot Community
I don’t know why this book felt so perfect for autumn and cool weather and grey skies and my current melancholy, but it was perfection. Beautifully blending moody teenage angst, Scottish island life, mysterious disappearances, and selkie mythology, Sylvester’s novel is the best new(ish) book I’ve devoured in months. I found myself angry that work and sleep were disrupting my progress. I wish there was more. I wish the story went on forever. I want to sink into Flo’s life and never leave the comf ...more
Linda Todd
May 16, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: friends
Recommended to Linda by: a gift
Wonderful book loved reading it and sorry it had to end but end it did and what an ending so come one and all and get this wonderful book you will be better for it fantasy, adventure and love all in one book I am happy to recommend this fabulous book to all my friends and how ever I can so got get the book you will be pleased you did so you all keep smiling and happy reading to you all with love from wee me. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
I stayed up far too late last night to finish this -- there was a cup of coffee consumed mid-afternoon which contributed to my reading prowess, but the majority of the blame belongs to this compelling and engaging novel. I'm betting a lot of other people in the US will have the same experience, as many UK readers have already, when the book hits the shelves this winter.

The pleasures here are myriad. Chief among them is a compelling and smart teenage narrator, Flora, who despite her insight has b
Book Addict Shaun
Aug 08, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014
When I was offered the chance to review this book I was immediately intrigued. The cover is absolutely stunning and would definitely capture your eye in a bookshop. With eye captured you then read the blurb and are drawn in even more. I know some people don't like blurbs, or even to be told a little bit about the plot but it's very rare that I go into a book blind. I have to at least have some idea about the book before reading it. A book such as this probably wouldn't be my usual read but I'm a ...more
Aug 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I bought this mistakenly thinking it was on the Booker shortlist. It was actually on the Guardian's Not the Booker shortlist, voted for by readers. I now have a much higher opinion of Guardian readers than Booker judges.

The narrator is a teenage girl, and I wondered if I'd picked up a book for adolescents. Although it could very well be read by a teenage audience, it is equally suitable for adults. It weaves a mystery over a serial killer with Scottish folklore about selkies.

I enjoyed most of th
i think possibly, this book was written just for me. it is almost the selkie story that i've been dreaming about writing since i was about 12. the atmosphere is perfect. the descriptions of the ocean, and the small island life, and flora's yearning for something more really work well. the selkie mythology and stories she is studying are fantastic. there are some really interesting bits about the nature of storytelling and mythology in here. and the coming of age, gothic vibe of flora's story re ...more
This book brings the mythical and creepy nature of the Scottish islands to life. Best to read at night under the covers with a torch for the full effect. If it’s foggy out so much the better!

The island of Bancree may be fictional yet it is evocative of many islands in and around the Hebrides. Places such as Gigha, Islay and Culloden all provide the inspiration for Bancree according to the author on his website and we have to agree. Wester Inshes is another place mentioned for the view and island
May 15, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dead-good-reads
I was lucky enough to receive an advanced copy of this book. It's not the sort of book I would buy usually but because I had been sent it I started to read. And I'm glad I did! I really enjoyed it and couldn't put it down. I am really into Scottish folklore so I enjoyed reading about the "Selkies". Would recommend this to anyone as it's very good. Will definitely look out for this author again
May 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read an advance copy of The Visitors (for a review elsewhere) and it is simply brilliant - lush prose, delightful characters and a thrilling plot that keeps you guessing until the end. A remarkable debut.
Trina Hollis
Aug 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
really cracking read. a mixture of fantasy love and adventure felt very sad when I came to the end and wanted more.
Caroline Deacon
Apr 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
It’s interesting this has been marketed as general or crime fiction, as the voice and subject matter feels v YA. Nevertheless it’s a beautifully written book, hard to categorise. Is it crime? Coming of age? Fantasy? Gothic horror? Or Scottish literary fiction? Immerse yourself in it and don’t worry what it is.
Written in first person from POV of seventeen year old teenage girl, I’ve only given it four stars rather than five as a couple of times the odd turn of phrase reminded me this was a man wr
Ali Bookworm
Jan 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
WOW!! From start to finish this book had me gripped, sucking me in like a Selkie would. The descriptions of Bancree were perfect creating an eerie setting from the start. It was easy to read and the story just flowed but it was the anticipation which built up with each chapter and towards the end my heart was beating. I loved it so so much as I love all stories intertwined with folklore. I really did not want it to end. On reflection I think I may have met a few selkies in my own life, it certai ...more
Suze Lavender
Mar 26, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Flora can't wait to leave Bancree. It's only a small island and there's nothing to do. She's seventeen years old and just has one more year of high school left before she can see more of the world. When her boyfriend leaves to go to university Flora is all alone. She doesn't have any other friends as they were an item for years and his friends were hers, but they've all left. Now that they've broken up she starts to think about their relationship. Fortunately Flora's loneliness doesn't last too ...more
Oct 21, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: edelweiss
Review also found at

3.5 stars

**I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher Melville House via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. The expected publication date is December 29th, 2015**

I will be upfront and say that I gambled on this story. It seemed a little like it was outside of my comfort zone however in my quest to expand my horizons I decided to take the plunge. Additional doubts arrived when I read the synopsis on Goodreads.
Jul 27, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There’s something about crime fiction set in small town communities that is endlessly compelling, and if these communities are set on remote Scottish islands, so much the better! Again, another crime book that is much more allayed to the style of contemporary fiction, The Visitors is an intriguing tale, steeped in myth, murder and a nifty reworking of the familiar locked room mystery, where there are only a finite group of suspects, but where the guilty party is well-concealed. This book is atmo ...more
Sep 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Taken from Amazon-Nobody moves to the remote Scottish island of Bancree, and few leave - but leaving is exactly what seventeen-year-old Flora intends to do. So when a mysterious man and his daughter move into isolated Dog Cottage, Flo is curious. What could have brought these strangers to the island? The man is seductively handsome but radiates menace; and there's something about his daughter Ailsa that Flo can't help but feel drawn towards.

People aren't only arriving on Bancree - they are disap
David Kenvyn
Mar 06, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Simon Sylvester first attracted attention with his collection of storytelling tweets. This is his first novel and it is well worth the wait. This is a story about two young girls on a remote Scottish island, and it tells of the terrifying consequences of their friendship. The tale is set in the everyday world of a small Scottish island, where everyone knows everyone else, and where everything is as safe as it should be. It is a story of school projects, school rivalries, ferry journeys, trips to ...more
Sarah-Jayne Briggs
(I received this book for free as part of Goodreads First Reads giveaways).

(This review may contain spoilers).

Having reached the end of this book, I'm still left with some questions about it, but I still found it really well-written and a good read.

I liked Flora as a character and I also liked the relationship she had with Ailsa. Flora was someone I could really relate to and I saw a lot of myself in her.

I really liked the interspersing of the Selkie myths with the story. It was interesting to s
Andy Weston
Jan 09, 2016 rated it really liked it
This is typical of many such novels recently in that they may be a YA novel that is quite suitable for adults, or perhaps the other way round, in this case a crime mystery novel that would be very suitable for young adults.

Sylvester gets the setting right as far as I am concerned. On a remote Scottish island there is a missing person. Two 16-17 year old girls, struggling to find entertainment on the sparsely populated island, investigate. Around this is there own coming of age stories, and isla
Apr 11, 2016 rated it really liked it
Descriptions of this book make it sound like it's a mystery with a potentially supernatural twist, but though there are more than one mysteries in this book, it's not a "mystery" book, more a coming-of-age look at an interesting, likeable protagonist in an interesting setting. While the missing men were relevant, that mystery served more as a device to get the lead characters into certain places and situation than as a driver of the plot. The plot itself is driven by Flora (Flo)'s growth as a pe ...more
Jul 16, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Sylvester has done something really original - fused elements of The Wasp Factory, American Gods, and the ancient Celtic seaboard tales into something shiny and new. I can't remember the last time I read a Scottish novel that had a such a strong and vivid sense of place (and the fact that it's a fictional location makes this all the more impressive). The lead character Flo is brilliantly realised and the prose is lean, poetic and fluid throughout. I liked too that the novel hops between genres, ...more
Nov 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Have just whipped through this book, I could hardly put it down, it's so good. It draws you in and then you start speculating, but when the story twists it really picks up pace and keeps this up til the brilliant end. Best story I've read for time, this will stay with me for a while. The characters are very well drawn and likeable but even more, I love Sylvester's turn of phrase, his beautiful descriptive language and how he conjures up the essence of the Islands.
Jun 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What a thoroughly brilliant read. You don't often find a book that draws you in from the first page like this one, I could not put it down. The story itself is original, the characters have a real depth and the writing makes you feel like you are an observer watching a story unfold rather than reading words off a page. A great debut novel. More please!
Jan 27, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2016
A tricky one - this book had a lot of 5 star moments and I loved the incorporation of the selkie myth into a mystery book... but I felt like there were some key moments that needed to leave more impression with me as a reader and didn't. I got to the end and felt like I missed something even though I didn't. Still worth the time to read it, though :)
Jul 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
For a book that was part of our relationship experiment and that I didn't choose myself, this was pretty fantastic, I've enjoyed it from start to finish! It's a very dark novel and the Scottish stories within the story are brilliant. Fantastic twist, excellent read, highly recommended!
Natalie Bowers
Beautifully written. Utterly gripping. Full review to follow.
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Around the Year i...: The Visitors, by Simon Sylvester 4 17 Mar 07, 2016 10:14AM  
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  • Apex Magazine Issue 56 (January 2014)
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Simon Sylvester a writer, teacher and occasional filmmaker. He was born in 1980 and grew up in Scotland, England, Germany and Northern Ireland. He studied English Literature at Lancaster University and Film Production at the University of Bristol.

After years working as a camera assistant and then a magazine journalist, he started writing fiction in 2006. His short stories have been published in a
More about Simon Sylvester

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