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Gracekeepers #0.5

The Gloaming

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Mara’s island is one of stories and magic. She knows she’ll eventually end her days atop the cliff, turned to stone and gazing out at the horizon like all the villagers that went before her, drawn by the otherworldly call of the sea. Her whole family will be there too, even her brother Bee and her sister Islay.

But the island and the sea do what they want, and when they claim a price from her family, Mara’s world changes forever.

As years pass and Mara grows into herself and her scars, a chance meeting with the magnetic Pearl brings magic to life once more in ways that Mara never thought possible, in a story that she never would have dreamed for herself before.

The enchanting spiritual prequel to The Gracekeepers, Kirsty Logan’s The Gloaming is a present-day fable that brims over with dazzling imagination and captivating language.

320 pages, Hardcover

First published April 19, 2018

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About the author

Kirsty Logan

72 books1,245 followers
Kirsty Logan is a professional daydreamer. She is the author of two novels, The Gloaming and The Gracekeepers, and two story collections, A Portable Shelter and The Rental Heart & Other Fairytales. Her fifth book, Things We Say in the Dark, will be published on Halloween 2019.

Kirsty lives in Glasgow with her wife and their rescue dog. She has tattooed toes.

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5 stars
488 (26%)
4 stars
682 (37%)
3 stars
491 (27%)
2 stars
132 (7%)
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24 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 325 reviews
Profile Image for Paromjit.
2,503 reviews24.5k followers
March 20, 2018
Kirsty Logan writes a beautifully imagined tale of magic, folklore and fairytales with a strong undertow of darker forces juxtaposed with a gritty realism. Logan achieves the feat with her world building that is sufficiently nebulous and ambiguous in giving the reader the path of seeing and interpreting the novel as they wish. The narrative focuses on the issues of identity, what it is to be a woman, loss, grief and love with Logan drawing us in with her sublime atmospheric prose and descriptions. On a remote Scottish island, the Ross family reside in a ruined home that resists efforts to improve it. The parents, Signe and Peter, have backgrounds respectively in ballet dancing and boxing, both physically demanding and brutal occupations that have left indelible scars on their bodies.

Signe and Peter have three children, Barra (Bee), Mara and Islay, who have grown up on the island where no-one dies, but a person becomes petrified, turned to stone on the cliffs looking out towards the unforgiving sea. The forces of nature are indomitable, uncompromising, making its presence felt on all islanders. Tragedy beckons and in its wake comes a new arrival on the scene. Pearl is a mermaid, both mysterious and alluring to Mara. A love story blossoms, and the two of them leave the island, only to return as Peter and Signe begin to turn into stone. A strong element of dripping sadness pervades the text of this coming of age novel. Providing you take the time to become immersed in the twin of elements of magic and reality, this is a wonderfully imaginative book on the difficulties and challenges of life, folklore, selkies, and being a woman. A powerfully woven spellbinding story from Kirsty Logan. Many thanks to Random House Vintage for an ARC.
Profile Image for Charlotte May.
673 reviews1,028 followers
February 4, 2019
"You can want something...and also be terrified that it will hurt you."

Ok...where to start with The Gloaming. I'm just going to come out and say it - I was disappointed.
I absolutely ADORED The Gracekeepers, so when we were promised a prequel I could not wait!

First of all, the good. Kirsty Logan's writing is BEAUTIFUL. It is lyrical, and magical and dark, it completely sweeps you away.
My problem with it can be split into 2 main issues.

1) There is no particular story or plot line. There are loads of great characters, but they don't really do anything. Mara and Islay and Bee live on an island with their parents, an island of secrets. An island where every person will eventually turn to stone and rest on the cliff top for the rest of time. Mara meets Pearl, and she brings her out of her shell and helps her to dream again. They go on a few adventures but ultimately return to the island. Mara is carrying around guilt over her brother. Meanwhile her sister Islay is just a nasty human - she runs away from the island to start a new life. Despite all this, it's not a fixed storyline to follow - it is all in bits, and I just couldn't understand the point.

2) This book is labelled as a prequel to The Gracekeepers. Now forgive me if I am just being dense, but I saw no connection whatsoever to the world in The Gracekeepers or any of those characters. I just didn't get it.

While I love Kirsty Logan and the magic she brings into her stories. I just expected more. I needed to know what happened to Mara, I needed something to follow. It was just disjointed, and disheartening.

"They didn't live happily ever after, like a couple in a story. But they were happy for a while, and perhaps that's all we can ask for."
Profile Image for Dannii Elle.
1,966 reviews1,385 followers
November 2, 2021
Residing in a mansion, renowned for its once glory but falling daily into further disrepair, and situated on an island overlooked by the stone remains of the deceased is Mara, daughter of a ballerina and a boxer. The arrival of part-time mermaid, Pearl, ignites the ashes of a passion inside Mara. This passion is a desire to see what would happen if she would dare to take a step off the island, and enter the chaos of reality that lies beyond it. But the island has its own particular allure that is harder to shake than she might think.

The interwoven realistic and fantastical elements of this story made this a delightful and whimsical read, throughout. The enchanting elements, rather than detract from the real-world issues and the darker subject matters that were broached, heightened the emotional elements and threw them into stark relief. There was a clever juxtaposition consistently created that saw each scene oscillate between tender embraces and sudden deaths, compassionate moments and fits of passion, delicate features and iron wills.

The almost otherworldly backdrop was another example of Logan's careful creation and seamless blend of the whimsical with the every-day. The setting fitfully grasped at recognisable aspects of contemporary life as well as abstract concepts and fairy-tale imagery to create a landscape I could never fully imagine and yet felt entirely at home in. This was a world that was both known and yet one dually longed for.

The power of this novel also lay in its quiet moments. There is so much said in so few words and so much broadly hinted at with nothing bluntly delivered. Logan has penned a story and yet allowed the reader to become the architect of it. The ungraspable elements that have dogged every part of this makes it feel like a novel created by both reader and author. This element, however, is one that ensures everyone can find exactly what they are looking for in this novel. Just like I did.

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to the author, Kirsty Logan, and the publisher, Vintage, for this opportunity.
Profile Image for Renee Godding.
571 reviews546 followers
October 22, 2018
"We can't carry our whole lives with us everywhere we go. Memories have weight, and no one can lift them all at ones. We have to leave some of them behind."

5/5 stars, all time favorite

Often, I love books with my head. I love the way they’re written, the stories they tell, the words they chose. Sometimes these books linger like ghosts in the back of my mind, and slowly creep their way down into my heart, to claim their place as all-time favorites.
Rarely, I love books directly with my heart. Those are the ones that skip the ghosting-step, materialize directly into your soul and become instant favorites.
One of those rare occurrences was The Gloaming… '

Set on an island where magic is more than the subject of folklore, we follow an unorthodox family of five in the wake of a tragedy that changed their lives forever.
Signe (“The Bird”), a ballerina, split between grace and strength, freedom and responsibility. Her husband Peter, a boxer; body is strong as ever, but his mind falling apart. Their children: Islay (“the Beauty”), Mara (“the Changeling”) and Bee, the golden boy, whom small presence is with them everywhere they go.
And then there is Pearl (the Selkie), Mara’s lover, who carries a past of her own.
All of them are masterfully written, and feel so complete, that you forget they only exist on page. I especially adored Signe, whom life seems to be about balancing extremes. Frailty and strength, freedom and surrender, love and grief… the Black Swan and the White…
Mara was probably a close second. Not in the sense that I adored her as much, but in the sense that she was such a well crafted character. She is damaged by her past in the most literal way. Her relationship with Pearl mimics her relationship with the sea; she fears it, yet she yearns for it, not knowing whether it’s healing her, or damaging her even more.

Kirsty Logan, Mara and I share this love, fascination, and simultaneous fearful awe for the ocean. This love is definitely reflected in this novel as well, as the sea is arguably a seventh main character in itself. Unpredictable, unforgiving, yet soothing and calling to us all like a siren. Like life, it takes what it wants, only what it wants, and you never know what if it’ll ever give it back.
It’s in the names of our main characters, which all carry meaning in themselves, but you’ll have to read the book to understand them. It’s in the metaphors, the themes, the chapter titles and the entire atmosphere, that is vivid enough to make you taste the salt on your lips. (Or maybe they were just my own tears: I wouldn’t rule that out completely)
This was quite honestly one of the most emotion-packed, and probably most personal books I read in a long time. I cannot fathom how much Kirsty Logan managed to (effectively!) pack in just over 300 pages. Grief, family, a type of longing for home that I can’t quite describe*, the terrifying beauty of life itself and learning to live/love after loss again… There is so much more in here, but I can only recommend you read the book yourself, to see what you find.

*there is a beautiful Welsh word that describes this feeling, that doesn’t really translate too well. I realize it would have been more fitting if it were a Scottish word, like the chapter titles of this novel, but this will have to do.
“Hiraeth”: a bittersweet homesickness for a home you can’t return to, or a place that never was.
It’s a beautiful word, a feeling very familiar, and despite the fact that its Welsh, not Scottish, I feel it would have been right at home in this novel.
Profile Image for Sonja Arlow.
1,063 reviews7 followers
May 13, 2018
3.5 stars

I wish Netgalley had made it very clear that this was a prequel to The Gracekeepersas I think the story would have had an even deeper meaning for me had I read that book first.

But this story had its own merits and charm. The writing was at times mesmerising making you feel like you are coming up for air when you stop reading.

The story is not permeated by magical realism except for one little detail. Once a person reaches a certain age they slowly turn to stone, finally make their painfully slow way up the cliffs surrounded by their family and friends, and right at the last moment take their place among the statues. I thought the idea of this type of departure was beautifully depicted. The phenomenon was never explained, it felt like just a part of life on this island.

The main character is Mara, she lives with her sister Islay and brother Bee in an old ramshackle house with their parents.

Growing up the island is a treasure-trove of discovery and delight but after the family suffers a devastating loss they start to fracture. Islay leaves the island and Mara draws into herself until she is almost invisible. That is until Pearl arrives, she is the spark that brings life back into Mara’s eyes (and bed).

This is a tale about the effect of loss, but it is also about the magical pull of love, family and roots. And like all good magical realism books there is a hint of darkness underneath everything.

An easy recommendation

ARC Netgalley
Profile Image for Anna.
724 reviews500 followers
June 16, 2018
“Islands are about balance, and they each have their own rules. It’s tricky to get it right: the sea always wants things to change, the land wants them to stay the same. Everyone finds their own balance, and sometimes they get it right. But sometimes – far more often – they get it wrong.”

The Gloaming is a coming-of-age novel that brims over with bewitching imagination, beautiful language, in addition to its enchanting twisted fairy tales, and, as the writer herself puts it, it is “a queer mermaid love story.” The book is written in vignette-chapters focusing on memories, dreams, secrets and family moments, all connected by a thread that is the lives (and death) of siblings Mara, Islay and Barra, or Bee.

While these elements should make the story work for me, I couldn’t help but feel frustrated while reading, and by the time I got to the ending, my irritation grew even stronger. None of the members of the Ross family makes for a likeable character, but that is not my issue. The writer comes across as undecided as to what the point of her story is, the devices are too obvious: the poetic writing takes over the themes, the fantasy themes dominate the characters. There is no definitive conclusion and there were too many unanswered questions.
December 8, 2022
estoy destrozada por los suelos este es mi libro si existe un libro para cada persona este es el mio y es que estoy llorando hacia tanto que no sentía esto no se ni como expresarlo

edit: vale, ahora que estoy más calmada, voy a hacer una review (sin spoilers) para que veáis lo impresionante y completo que es este libro:

Primero de todo y lo menos importante, pero necesario de mencionar, es que la portada es preciosa. Una de las portadas más bonitas y significativas que he visto al menos este año.
Los capítulos del libro son muy cortos, apenas tienen 3-4 páginas, incluso algunos menos. No sé vosotros, pero yo estoy a favor de capítulos cortos por encima de largos porque si no depende el libro me resulta un poco agobiante, además de que hace que me entren más ganas de leer porque siempre estoy pensando 'va, un capítulo más que son dos páginas' - pero lo más importante no es eso. Lo que me ha ganado es que cada capítulo tiene de título una palabra escocesa, y al final del libro hay un glosario con lo que significa cada palabra. Todas tienen su sentido y han estado escogidas a la perfección. Un puntazo a mi parecer.
En cuanto a la trama, entré con la idea de que era un libro sobre 'dos sirenas lesbianas' (idea - un poco - equivocada) y me sorprendió en todos los sentidos.
Los personajes son redondos y te puedes sentir muy identificada con ellos, con la idea de irte de casa y buscarte la vida, o incluso con sentimientos más negativos como ser egoísta o simplemente equivocarte.
En cuanto a la isla y la casa en la que viven, simplemente el mejor setting que podría haber. Tienen una aura mágica pero a la vez realista. La autora está jugando todo el rato con que es real y que no y es que me parece fascinante. Relacionado con esto está toda la idea de los cuentos de hadas y los finales felices y como se han cambiado todas estas historias para que sean historias de amor con finales felices, aunque la realidad o la original no sea así. Super fabu como dirían en Mean Girls.
Finalmente, me gustaría comentar una situación del libro que es spoiler pero a la vez no (no es relevante, pero es una cosa que vas aprendiendo), así que si no quieres leerlo no lo leas y salta a la conclusión en el siguiente párrafo: la idea de que cuando la gente se está muriendo se va convirtiendo en piedra y va ralentizando todos sus movimientos hasta que al final todo el pueblo les acompañan al acantilado y allí se convierten finalmente en piedra. Súper bittersweet.... Pero hay algo que me parece precioso en eso.

Conclusión: el mejor libro que he leído este año y que posiblemente leeré en un tiempo. No puedo recomendarlo más si crees que este género te gusta, porque está muy muy muy bien escrito y muy bien liado todo. Simplemente esta chica tiene talento y encima es lesbiana así que yo de ti lo leeria un besito <3
Profile Image for Neira .
20 reviews15 followers
May 5, 2019
“We can't carry our whole lives with us everywhere we go. Memories have weight, and no one can lift them all at once. We have to leave some of them behind.”

Home, both as a tangible entity and as a symbol, is treacherous in its portmanteau denoting. It liberates one from the claustrophobic expectations of the society, but it also binds one obsessively to its roots. It empowers one to celebrate the strength of familial identity, but it also imprisons one within its folds. It betokens an element of comfortable security, but it also hearkens to a yearning for the reckless unknown. Its carefully evolved walls grandly unveil some dreams, while stifle some others. It is here that people experience the eccentricities of birth, a maddening propensity to escape and a wishful desire to die surrounded by its familiarity.

Kristy Logan's The Gloaming has a charmingly deceptive cover, its phantasmagorical azure background revealing two mermaids serenading the title. But the novel is not a mere frothy oracular spectacle. Logan employs the trope of mermaid folklore to contemplate the paradoxical nature of one's relationship with one's home.

The Gloaming's opening paragraphs are both enchanting and ominous. We are introduced to an almost uninhabited island away from the contraptions of modern civilization, where the whimsies of time and space do not intrude. When the residents grow old and begin to experience the stiffening immobility of their situation, they climb atop a cliff and turn into stone effigies, trapping themselves away from oblivion.

Peter and Signe, desiring a peaceful life away from the chaos of the world, find themselves a home on the island along with their three children Islay, Mara and Bee. Their lives follow the static pace of the island, till a tragedy tears the idyllic life of family asunder. As grief and torment engulfs them, each member finds a different way to cope with it. Peter and Signe vignette their past through memories, embedding themselves permanently in its endless loops. Mara, on the other hand, finds solace, first in an abandoned mobile library, and later in her relationship with Pearl, a performing mermaid who awakens her sexuality, and whose enigmatic life and ornate lifestyle enchant and lure her.

As the narrative journeys through the treacherous crests and troughs of human emotions, Logan poignantly enunciates the way the grief of tragedy permanently alters one's relationship with one's family, with one's idea of home, turning it into a grotesque shadow of itself. We find the characters ricocheting between their desire to unshackle themselves from their roots and begin life afresh, and a wistful nostalgia that begs them to reclaim it, literally and metaphorically, despite the scars and fissures. The novel is a poignant chronicle of people who pine for a time and a life that cannot be restored.

Unfortunately, the marvelously fascinating premise of The Gloaming is let down by a meandering pace that mirrors the deadpan humdrum of the island. The plot is sparsely populated by narrative catalysts that can propel the story forward, and the elaborate descriptions do little to supplement their absence. The lack of specificity in detailing too, instead of emboldening the imagination, leaves it flailing in a sluggish vagueness. The characters are mostly flat, mundane and languidly etched, and little seems to affect their ossified behaviors and traits.

With little substance to narrate the story, The Gloaming triumphs in its splendid, evocative imagery, its sumptuous rendition of the mysterious hushing of the sea and the eeriness of the petrified statues occupying the liminal space between the land and the sea. And of course, Logan's language, at once complex, plain, and infused with the magic of folklore, spanning the expanse of age and time to summon the vivid vulnerability of love, grief and longing.
Profile Image for Marcella.
827 reviews59 followers
April 8, 2020
2020. reread.

This book still breaks my heart and then puts it together all the same. This is my favorite book, there's no competition.


I have just finished The Gloaming by the amazing Kirsty Logan and she again raised the bar for any future book I will pick up. It was utterly amazing, it tugged on my heartstrings, breaking my heart and healing it at the same time. This story focuses on a family, an island, stories, hope, grief and love. And it was magical.

“The world was so full of magic then that Mara didn’t always know when she was awake and when she was dreaming."
Profile Image for Rikke.
615 reviews652 followers
August 12, 2019
I didn't think it was possible but I loved this even more than The Gracekeepers.

Written in alluring and lush prose, this story drips nostalgia, melancholia and darkness. It's a fusion of myths, fairy tales and brutal reality told in poetic prose. It's a tale of the sea, of mermaids, of loss, of motherhood, of grief, of sickness and – above all – a tale of the devastatingly unyielding nature, taking lives without mercy or reason.

It's beautiful. It's horrible. It's unforgettable.

To stay in the gloaming is to hold off the night. But if the night never comes, then neither can the day.

Profile Image for Heather.
Author 15 books118 followers
April 16, 2018
A gorgeously, luxuriously dark follow up to Kirsty's debut. My heart sang, my heart broke and I couldn't put the damn thing down. Utterly brilliant.
Profile Image for Abbie | ab_reads.
603 reviews453 followers
September 20, 2020
If you're looking for something beautiful, mysterious and a little bit magical, then consider The Gloaming as your next read! I read The Gracekeepers by Kirsty Logan a few years ago and honestly I was kind of underwhelmed, I remember I thought there were too many perspectives for me to care deeply about the characters. Well The Gloaming is touted as a 'spiritual prequel to the Gracekeepers', which I just?? That doesn't make sense to me, but I think maybe I've just forgotten all of the details of The Gracekeepers and I'm missing some connection. But fear not, if you haven't read it, just read The Gloaming instead for a gorgeous fairytale-esque tale with a precious f/f relationship!
Mara lives on an island, only accessible via fishing boat. Life there moves slowly and magic lingers in the air. When the inhabitants reach the end of their lives, they make the walk up to the cliff where their bodies turn to stone. There they stand, silent sentinels looking out towards the sea. Mara knows that's what's in store for her, along with her mother, father, sister Islay and little brother Bee. But when the sea turns against their family, Mara realises there is a world beyond her tiny island.
The story is told in a fragmented, non-linear structure, flitting back and forth between past and present. We hear about the family's life before and after the island, hear from every member of the family. The chapters are short and choppy, but it still manages to feel substantial. When I think back on the book now, which I listened to, as I write my review, it's not so much the story I remember, but the hypnotic atmosphere. The beautiful and enigmatic Pearl. The crumbling house the family lives in. The merciless sea which still holds a magnetic allure despite its cruelty. Logan draws everything together to evoke an irresistible sense of magic.
I think if you love the sea and you enjoy atmospheric books you should give this one a try, but be aware that there isn't that much plot. But if you can overlook that then sit back and let the magic of the island wash over you.
Profile Image for Erica.
1,293 reviews425 followers
October 30, 2019
Confession: I would not have read this had I not Goodreads-known the author. (Hi, Kirsty! I liked your book!)
And you're looking at the cover, thinking to yourself, "But this looks exactly like the kind of book you read."
You are correct. It is. But it's not in either of my library districts and I'm not one to go through tons of effort to get my hands on a book when I am surrounded by so many other books that need reading.
But then! We somehow got an audio copy of The Gracekeepers on Overdrive. I assume it's part of a bundle because we don't typically order audio copies of books if we don't already have it or other titles by the author in our print collection.
So anyway, The Gracekeepers appeared in Overdrive and I was all, "Hey! I know that author!" and then I decided I should read her other book, which is this one, so I requested it through interlibrary loan. And I read it. And now I can listen to The Gracekeepers.

I went into this blind, not knowing a thing about the story, only knowing that the cover looked lovely. Also, it's an embossed hardcover, which is super aesthetically pleasing and I was pleased.

Turns out, this story has sisters! You know I love those. And difficult mother/daughter relationships! And magical realism/folkloric atmosphere. And really pretty writing. So, yeah, this is totally the kind of book I gobble up and I was fortunate that I actually had to gobble this one because since it doesn't belong to my library, I couldn't renew it a million times and had to put everything aside and read this until it was done. Win/win.

It's not a happy story but, then, it's not supposed to be. It kind of drags at you like an undertow, pulling you out, making you feel heavy and tired. And while that sounds awful, it's definitely not because hovering over Mara, the "changeling" of the family (ironic because she is the least changelingly of them all), watching her sister, her father, her mother, and then her girlfriend and herself, move through grief, through attempts at renewal, and through finding or losing themselves, lets the reader see the pain without being drowned by it.

Ultimately, not a lot happens in this cold island story and yet, it's wonderfully beautiful, full of tiny treasures not unlike what you find after the tide goes out.
Profile Image for Emma.
136 reviews28 followers
February 19, 2018
First of all, I'd like to thank Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

This is the second Kirsty Logan novel I've read, and The Gloaming reminded me of The Gracekeepers in a lot of ways - good and bad.

Let's start with the good: Logan's prose is gorgeously evocative, conjuring up wild landscapes, dreamy tenderness and all-too-human awkwardness with equal ease. This is definitely a fairy tale of sorts, and her writing style is perfectly suited to the task of bringing the strange magic of the island she's created to life.

However, despite the fact that her writing style seems perfect for this novel, it never really felt like Logan was truly leaning into the story's full potential. While the island's magic and nature's wildness had an undeniable influence on the narrative, they always felt somewhat limited in scope; the themes of family, grief, leaving and returning were constants throughout the book, but it never quite seemed to figure out what it was saying about them; and the scenes between Mara and Pearl were usually beautifully written, but they never actually gave much sense of who they were as individuals (especially Pearl) or how they fit together. In fact, in some ways it felt like the character I understood best at the end of the story was Signe, even though the main character was ostensibly her daughter Mara.

Despite my occasional frustration with it, this is a lovely novel and I quite enjoyed it! I have to say, there was a wonderfully poignant twist at the end which I really liked, and I appreciated the use of stories and folklore (and Scots language!!) throughout. I just always kind of felt like I was waiting for something more - more cohesion, more character development, more enchantment. But I'm certainly glad that there's one more magical novel about women who love women in the world!
Profile Image for Robert.
1,953 reviews187 followers
January 7, 2020
While reading The Gloaming, I felt like I was transported to that point in my childhood, when I discovered fairy tales. The reason behind this wave of nostalgia is because Kirsty Logan’s writing has a magical quality to it and she includes Scottish mythology in this book which enhances the reading experience. However Logan is clever and uses myth to probe into deeper subjects.

The main protagonist of the book is Mara, a girl who lives on an island, where old people go to a cliff edge to die (they turn into stone) ,and is steeped in lore and superstition. When her younger brother dies in an accident and her elder sister emigrates, she is at her lowest point in her life and to escape the loss Mara turns to reading, which result in her meeting Pearl, who she falls in love with.

Mara’s relationship with Pearl is the crux of the book. We readers learn that after a disastrous relationship with a male, Mara learns about her sexuality and talents, in short discovers herself. In the meantime Mara has to balance her guilt, relationship with her parents and more importantly, her love/hate relationship with the island. Ultimately Mara has to choose which path to take.

The Gloaming is fantastic. There are some twists in the narrative, Logan explores all her characters thoroughly by giving information about their backgrounds and these chapters helped make the novel feel whole. I connected with all the protagonists in this book and combined the magical atmosphere (but with the exception of the stone bit, the book is grounded in reality) made The Gloaming a joy to read. Plus the fact that I live on an island, although I prefer it in the winter, helped me relate to the book. Also Logan knows how to create a feel good magical realist book without being twee or overdoing the magical bits. This was my first taste of Logan’s writing and since it was so positive I am definitely going to read more of her books.
Profile Image for Moray Teale.
255 reviews9 followers
February 8, 2018
On the island where Mara and her family live people don’t die, the go to the cliff where they remain, gazing out to sea with the waves crashing beneath, their presence a haunting reminder of what is to come for the islanders. And Mara’s family is haunted by many things, long-ago decisions, new desires and a devastating loss that has scarred Mara inside and out. A new arrival seems to finally offer the chance to move on but the budding relationship brings challenges of its own.
I’ve been waiting for this book from Kirsty Logan. So far I have read everything she’s published and so far I’ve always felt that there was some essential element missing so that, despite the boundless potential I could see in her writing, I was always left dissatisfied. Here her bewitching prose and wicked humour finally fully combine with the grim(m) fairy-tale properties to create something rich and dark and emotionally resonant. I think the difference is in the characters. In her previous work I felt a distance to her characters that couldn’t be overcome by the gloriously dark imagery but Mara and her family felt less like props for Logan’s imagined world and more like real people occupying real (if fantastic) space.

Themes of transformation, transience and permanence are perfectly modeled by the overriding medium of water which is a constant, inescapable presence within the family – selkies, mermaids, the ocean as a constant force that outlasts all else – the power of nature to give and to take. The double-edged sword that is feeling connected to your home that comforts and stifles at the same time.
Profile Image for Ariadna Cota.
9 reviews
January 3, 2023
Such a beautiful book. I did not know what to expect because it is a book I had to read for uni (I usually don't like the books they force us to read). But this was a pleasant surprise and DEFINITELY it has become my favourite book I had to read for class. It is so beautifully and cleverly written and the ending is just the cherry on top. I strongly recommend anyone to read it. Even though I hate my teacher, THANK YOU ANDREW.
Profile Image for Ana.
139 reviews87 followers
March 13, 2018
Reseña en español // English review here

The Ross family decided to move to a remote island with their two daughters to live a more peaceful life. A large, pink-ish and abandoned mansion makes for their new home; however, despite their feigned efforts, it will never be completely renovated. Truthfully, it will never be anything but a house in ruins. Come hell or high water, the Ross family seeks desperately for a place to stay grounded. Mirroring the family's desire, the nameless island fights continuously against the dominant force of the sea. When its residents are about to die, they climb up a hill where they will become statues forever. Finally, they reach stillness, a place where their roots can cling to the earth.

The Gloaming is a story about hope, growing up, love and grief. Angela Carter’s influence in this book speaks volumes, offering that unique twist to fairy tales, those stories that talk of ferocious beasts, maidens with hacked-off toes or mermaids that kill children. Logan explores the real meaning behind these fairy tales; more specifically, gender roles, the oppression of women and the idealized concept of love. A fairy tale does not necessarily suggest a fairy-tale ending. Does happiness mean staying in the same place and fighting for what you love? Is there any happiness in abandoning and getting back to your old self? The Ross sisters had been exposed to sugar-coated fairy tales while growing up, and only their turning point occurs when they finally experience that suffocating feeling from a love that consumes everything, even your own identity. The fisherman snatched the selkie's skin to force her to stay; however, no matter how much you give the selkie in return, she will always long for the sea.

Furthermore, the Ross family is inevitably involved in a constant struggle between stillness and change. The false sense of balance that they are striving to hold can lead to a relentless storm, whose force sweeps everything on its way, while also returning everything to its place.

How are these stories different from real life? Read the book to find out. You will be surprised to discover how a story full of fantastical elements conveys such a real message.

**I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Helen.
74 reviews1 follower
May 9, 2018
This story is a fantastical meld of folk/fairy tales and magical realism. I have read very little magical realism before so found it a little hard going to begin with but the story itself was captivating and I became so invested in the characters that I couldn't put the book (Kindle) away and had to stay up late to finish it off (within 24 hours).

We follow the Ross family through a tragic accident which affects each family member in a completely different way. We go back in time to the meeting of the boxer and the ballerina, then up to present day, with an 18 year old girl, just discovering who she wants to be, and her meeting with a part-time mermaid!

Kirsty Logan has created a completely believable world with stunning prose - this is a beautiful literary fiction novel. Yes, it's true that some of the characters could be a little more developed or 'fleshed out' - this could easily have been a much longer book and would still have been as captivating but, for me, I loved this read and would recommend it wholeheartedly.
Profile Image for Eimear.
121 reviews5 followers
December 5, 2018
Ok I'm not going to lie I was so shook at so many parts of this book, tears, heart beating uncontrollably fast, heart almost stopping, you name it! Biggest shock I think was finding out who the narrator is (it could have been mentioned earlier in the book but I forget). I absolutely loved that each chapter title had it's own meaning and that Signe's and Peter's chapters had names based on their former careers. Logan really put thought into every moment of this book and I can't wait to read more of her works.

I knocked one star off because I found it quite hard to get into the book at the beginning but I was on a bit of a reading slump at the time so I can't tell if it was me or the books beginning.

The book was truly magical and brings together heartbreak, love, loss and all other emotions incredibly well. In short, this book is amazing and I can't wait to stick my head into another of Logan's books.
Profile Image for blok sera szwajcarskiego.
663 reviews157 followers
January 28, 2022

"Oh, my mermaid. My mermaid, my mystery, my selkie. My creature from the sea. I always knew you were from another world."
"No. No, listen. That's not what I'm telling you. The other world didn't want me."

Where do I even begin?
I love fairy tales. My mother sowed this love in me many years ago, and it grew, grew deep inside me for twenty years, until its vines run out of room. They started twisting, and overgrowing, but never died – always kept living, finding a place where were none. Because this love is a hungry love, it needs to consume and grow.

Seeing how many modern fairy tales literature serves, it makes my hidden behind vines heart warm.

The atmosphere. The mythology. The simple, yet mysterious story. The representation. The love, and I'm saying it from a position of someone who dislikes love story – forgotten gods, the loves here! I'm not even going to talk about what "The Gloaming" is, because the biggest emotions come from discovering yourself.

I can only say that it has opened my body, letting the love exit. And it grew, it grew so widely that the vines took my body, and now I can only thank Kirsty Logan that there is book two, because I wouldn't want to live in the world without her fairy tales.
Profile Image for Taylor.
82 reviews25 followers
June 23, 2021
This book is gorgeous. Kirsty Logan's world building was beautiful, blending reality with magic and myth and folklore until I felt like I was swimming in a dream. This book was a beautiful way to explore gritty and raw human experiences: grief and love and loss and change. I wouldn't recommend this book to someone who isn't interested in character explorations and needs a stiff plot. In a lot of ways, what I loved about this book was how dreamy it was, and almost romantic in its demonstration of how we can find pieces of a fairytale in our own lives. Loved this more than I thought I would.

Still a little mad there wasn't a real mermaid though.
Profile Image for Laura.
570 reviews57 followers
February 17, 2018
A warning: Kirsty Logan’s The Gloaming is another of 2018’s promised mermaid novels that’s a little short on actual mermaids. However, it’s long on atmosphere, imagination, and a charming lesbian love story. Islay, Mara and Barra have grown up on a tiny Scottish island, after their parents, Signe and Peter, brought them there when the two eldest girls were very small. Signe and Peter have compelling backstories of their own; Signe was once a professional ballet dancer, reaching the pinnacle of her career in Swan Lake, while Peter fought as a lightweight boxer. Logan emphasises the physicality and brutality of both these vocations: we might be unsurprised by the depiction of Peter’s damaging fights, but we also read about the physical toll of Signe’s work: ‘On the first day of rehearsals, Signe’s feet were a size 5 1/2. After a few weeks they were down to a size 5… She taped her toes before every show, but it wasn’t enough. The skin on the knuckles of her toes was all sliced off, and she danced too often for it to heal. Most nights she bled right through her pointe shoes.’ Signe’s suffering recalls the original Hans Christian Andersen story ‘The Little Mermaid’, where the little mermaid can only gain human legs through feeling as if she’s walking on knives.

Logan’s first novel, The Gracekeepers, demonstrated that she’s one of the few contemporary writers who understands how to handle folktale, and this talent is on full display in The Gloaming. Whether she’s weaving familiar folktales about selkies and mermaids into the narrative, or writing her own myths about concubines in towers, Logan gets what makes folktales work, and isn’t tempted to distort them. However, she also tells a slight but absorbing plot about the love story between Mara and Pearl, a mixed-race girl who comes to the island and keeps an old bus filled with books. Mara and Pearl leave the island together to perform as mermaids on cruise ships and in other glamorous settings, capitalising on their talent for holding their breath. But they are ultimately pulled back to it when they realise that, like many other islanders, Peter and Signe are gradually turning to stone.

The Gloaming felt more widely resonant to me than The Gracekeepers because it is even less rooted in a particular world – whether that’s the real world or a speculative, parallel version. The island feels figurative in a way that’s difficult to pin down. Is it, as Islay speculates, a place that people go to die, a kind of halfway house between life and death, in the same way as the gloaming is halfway between night and day? Or is it actually the only solid place, which explains why Islay, Mara and Pearl’s adventures in the world outside are deliberately sketchy and unformed? “Things off the island – they’re not real,” Mara tells Pearl. 'All those hours under the water with Pearl,' she thinks. 'Their bright wigs and their shimmering tails… But Mara knew now that they’d stayed under the water too long… “It’s just too hard. It’s too much. I don’t want to drown.”' Mara and Pearl seem to have lived out the bulk of their relationship in the space between one breath and another, and are now coming back to earth.

The slipperiness of the world-building in both Logan’s novels is simultaneously a strength and their weakness. At times, I wished that she would take firmer hold of this world and expand on its possibilities, think about why certain islanders are turned to stone, and if there really are selkies in the sea surrounding Mara’s island. In short, I wonder what would happen if she made her fiction more firmly speculative, rather than staying in folktale territory. I liked some of her short stories in The Rental Heart precisely because they had to have neater edges. But on the other hand, I can see that The Gloaming works partly because there are no clear rules. It’s an eerie and magical book, even if I’d love to see Logan dive off in a new direction for her next. As for the actual mermaids of 2018: we might have to wait for Louise O’Neill’s The Surface Breaks to meet them.

I received a free proof copy of this novel from the publisher for review.
Profile Image for Agnès.
92 reviews6 followers
December 8, 2022
It was a 4/5 stars book right until that final 15% of the book, the end makes it worth of the 5 stars. I was so surprised by that ending, and it made me feel so much, my heart is still beating super loud rn, and I finished it a good half an hour ago. Overall, this book was beautifully sad, I think that is the right way of describing it. I loved the mix of fairytales with 'reality', and the never being sure if magic was real or not on the island, the constant second-guessing... Loved the parents' story and their chapters, hated both sisters (but also understood their feelings, which is probably why I hate them), loved Pearl and loved the sea, the cliff and all the family's traditions related to the island.
I do not care if the author does not agree (which I'm sure she would btw, she sounds like such a lovely person), but Pearl is canonically trans, don't fight me on that. Bee has autism, as well. And even if these things are never explicitly stated, I will go on and say that I loved the representation, even if no one else agrees, idc idm.

It was such an easy read, and in a way, it was so healing. Every time I picked it up, I couldn't really stop reading, it is very immersive.

I also ADORED the touch with the titles. There is a glossary at the end with all the chapters' titles meanings and it just adds an extra level of magic and ngl, quality, to them.

Amazing read, will definitely be recommending non-stop.

5/5 for The Gloaming!
Profile Image for Callum McLaughlin.
Author 4 books83 followers
May 13, 2018
I read The Gloaming in just two sittings. Having been instantly swept up by its tone of melancholy and quiet magic, I simply didn't want to put it down.

Above all else, it's a book about stories; how integral they are to our very existence; how they change over time; the things we add to them and the parts we choose to forget because they're just too painful; how no two people interpret a story in the same way, but how no version is any less true. From losing ourselves in books to the lies we dress up with fiction to protect ourselves from pain, it's a book that celebrates the beauty, the necessity, and the power of storytelling as an artform. This is why the lifeblood of fairy tales that runs through it works so well, as they are the epitome of stories that have stood the test of time, evolving from teller to teller without ever losing their heart or their truth.

The structure feels at times like a series of short vignettes or snapshots of the characters’ lives, shifting perspective and timeframe on the fly. This does well to reflect the notion of the disparate pieces of a story fitting together to form one whole narrative - as well as the different people and viewpoints that come together to make a family. Beyond that, it also called to mind the idea of the ebbs and flows of the sea, with water itself being key to the novel.

Logan's prose is wonderful; suitably ornate and enchanting but in an understated way that avoids the trap of indulging in too much whimsy. Also, whilst I'm not often a big fan of magical realism outside of short stories, I think it works to haunting effect here, with fantastic imagery that enhances the story rather than distracting from or undermining it. Indeed, it's underplayed, leaving enough to our imagination to invite discussion as to how much is real and how much is the fancy of the characters; their efforts to cope with or understand the world around them. Better yet, throughout it all, the story is always grounded in the very human notions of family, sisterhood, loyalty, grief and love, whilst also ruminating on the ideas of beauty, bodily difference, sexuality and self-acceptance.

An isolated island setting is one of my bookish weaknesses, and the way Logan paints The Gloaming's is evocative and transporting. I also really appreciated the cyclical feeling of the narrative. This is furthered by the clever handling of the ending, which takes an approach that is both original and perfectly pitched for a tale of this kind. After all, the best stories, like fairy tales, never really end...
Profile Image for Sarah Dorothea.
265 reviews
November 4, 2018
5 out of 5 stars! ⭐ OH WOW! That was an absolutely beautiful read that was, I feel so nostalgic, now that I'm done reading this novel. 'The Gloaming' is a gorgeous tale of love and grief, and the gap between fairy tales and real life. It's an outlandish coming-of-age story, in which Kirsty Logan blurs the line between sea and land as elegantly as it blends real life and mermaid tales. I love how Marianne Gusti managed to capture so beautifully what the book is about and I had to add it to my review, so here we go: "Her bitter narrative is dotted with many pearls of wisdom, oracular yet charming, and a romantic Weltanschauung that permeates even the most tragic events, like a salty patina that builds up on treasure from the sea." 😍📚✨

So here is what the fantasy / romance family-tragedy novel is about: 'The best lives leave a mark.' A bewitching tale of first love, shattering grief, and the dangerous magic that draws us home. Mara’s island is one of stories and magic, but every story ends in the same way. She will finish her days on the cliff, turned to stone and gazing out at the horizon like all the islanders before her. Mara’s parents – a boxer and a ballerina – chose this enchanted place as a refuge from the turbulence of their previous lives; they wanted to bring up their children somewhere special and safe. But the island and the sea don’t care what people want, and when they claim a price from her family, Mara’s world unravels. It takes the arrival of Pearl, mysterious and irresistible, to light a spark in Mara again, and allow her to consider a different story for herself. 💙

What I loved about this book was that it's by a Scottish author and that all the titles from the chapters were in Scottish English. The great thing was that she added a little glossary at the end of the book, so before I started reading a chapter I jumped to the end of the book to look up the English translation and wrote it in pencil on top of the Scottish word. This sort of became my reading tradition whilst devouring this novel. Also, the way Kirsty Logan makes use of the English language is astonishing and I can't wait to read more books by this wickedly talented writer. 📚🙋🏻‍♀️👌🏻

“Why would you think that I would only like you when you’re nice? I like you like this,’ she said, ‘and I like you not like this, and I like you every way you can possibly be.” ― Kirsty Logan, 'The Gloaming'
Profile Image for Karen Mace.
1,778 reviews65 followers
June 12, 2018
I was a fan of The Gracekeepers, but think I actually preferred this story as I felt it was better structured and felt more emotional and easier to connect with. But I will be going back to read The Gracekeepers now this story is fresh in my mind as the prequel.

The cover is stunning, and the story is full of magical realism, beautifully written and is one of those books you can just pick up and lose yourself in! And that is exactly what I did!

Signe and Peter are the parents to 3 children - Mara, Islay and Bee - and live on the Island knowing they will die there, no matter how hard they try to get away. The 3 children are all so different and we see their stories unfold - there is a lot of sadness in the family and this is exquisitely imagined by the author and helps you to connect with the family more as they face the demons that loss brings to their lives and also allow new experiences to change their outlooks and perceptions of the world around them.

The pace of the story played a big part in my enjoyment - things never felt rushed, but were allowed to evolve in a more realistic way and especially the way it allowed flashbacks to various memorable events in all their lives play out on the page and just made me want more from this unorthodox family!

Profile Image for Tania.
1,171 reviews266 followers
October 7, 2018
Her mind was loud and white and chaotic, like a dozen swans taking flight.

3.5 stars. I love magical realism, but have realized that this is one of the genres where finding new books are quite difficult. So, I am very happy to add Kirsty Logan as a go-to author.

The setting, an unnamed Scottish island that slowly turns its inhabitants to stone, is mysterious and magical. The Gloaming tracks the lives of the Ross family: ...the fighter, the bird, the beauty, the changeling and the golden boy., specifically focusing on the effects caused by the drowning of the youngest on the rest of the family.

Although not perfect (the ending could have been much shorter) I enjoyed this book about surviving grief and sexual awakenings, and will add her other novel to my TBR list.
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