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The Island Child

3.89  ·  Rating details ·  445 ratings  ·  93 reviews
Twenty years ago, Oona left the island of Inis for the very first time. A wind-blasted rock of fishing boats and sheep’s wool, where the only book was the Bible and girls stayed in their homes until mothers themselves, the island was a gift for some, a prison for others. Oona was barely more than a girl, but promised herself she would leave the tall tales behind and never ...more
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published January 30th 2020 by Canongate Books Ltd. (first published 2020)
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Average rating 3.89  · 
Rating details
 ·  445 ratings  ·  93 reviews

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Jan 31, 2020 rated it really liked it
The Island Child is Molly Aitken’s mesmerising, dark debut and centres around Irish folklore, superstition, secrets, motherhood and the search for identity associated with growing from a child into an adult. It follows Oona from her life growing up on a remote and somewhat desolate island off the Irish coast in the 1960s, where she is suffocated and ruled over by a cold, overbearing mother who is paranoid about letting her daughter out of her sight, to her eventual escape to freedom in Canada. B ...more
Renee Godding
Dec 08, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2020-releases
3/5 stars

Tell me a story', she says. 'Like you used to when I was little'.
'Once upon a time, a woman gave birth to a daughter.'
'That's the one'...

The Island Child was one of my most anticipated novels of 2020, as it seemingly had every element I adore in literary fiction: an remote island setting near the Irish shore, an exploration of trauma and motherhood and a dose of mystisicm and folklore to form the backdrop. While parts of that expectation were met, I was almost a little confused by ho
Outstanding debut novel.
Atmospheric and melancholy...

Growing up on the Aran Island of Inis was a place of loneliness and entrapment for the girl Oona. While her brothers left the cottage every day to accompany their father on his fishing trips, Oona was left at home with her mother, a woman who was stern and uncommunicative. While boys went to school, girls did not as they were needed in the home. The division of labour was strict, the insular life hard. Oona always wanted more from life. She w
Jul 16, 2020 rated it really liked it
enjoyed this novel a mixture of folklore and family relationships in a small community based in Ireland and the other part Canada , felt quite mythical in parts
KitKat The #BookNerd KBbookreviews
The Island Child, by Molly Aitken is a painful and heart-breaking story of motherhood, womandhood, grief and identity.

Synopsis: Oona was born on the Island of Inis, a place steeped in superstition, folk-lore and religion, where men go out to sea in order to bring home food while the women stay home to cook, clean and raise their children. On a small island where everybody knows each other, distrust and rumours spread quickly and conformity is expected.

Twenty years ago, Oona left the island, her
Narrator: Aoife McMahon (really great narration overall. The Irish characters were portrayed really well but the accents and voices used for any of the Canadian/North American characters was questionable).

The Island Child follows the troubled story of Oona who is forced to return to the Irish island of Inis when her daughter runs away. In her own magical way of storytelling that echoes the Irish folktales and mythology we grew up with, Oona weaves a tale of an island stuck in its old ways, and h
Dec 14, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: netgalley
This is an impressive debut novel ticking many of my favourite boxes, not least a setting on a remote Irish island. Oona has a repressed childhood, languishing at home under the watchful eye of a mother who won’t let her out of her sight for fear of…. what? Pretty much everything, but mainly too much freedom to get into trouble. Oona, of course, doesn’t want to marry the boy next door and live the same life as her mother over again. She dreams of escape and she does indeed escape, but under very ...more
Toni Kely-Brown
The story intrigued me and it was well-written but I just didn't like it. It's a dark story and perhaps that's why I struggled. I had to skim the last half of the book as despite the writing I found it slow and repetitive. Oona's young life is tragic and so whilst I understood what lead her to become the adult she did and struggle with relationships, I found it difficult to connect with her or be sympathetic to her. I know I'm on the outlier here as most others have loved this book and rated it ...more
Claire (Silver Linings and Pages)
This is a beautiful evocation of claustrophobic conformity on an Irish Island, coming of age and dealing with the past.
When Oona emigrates from the island of Enis to Canada, leaving behind everything she has ever known, she thinks that she can close the door on her past. She has struggled to burst free from a paternalistic community, where men have relative freedom and girls must stay at home to be protected by their mothers. Womanhood is portrayed as a curse and certainly folklore, superstitio
Aug 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I’ve been so anxious lately and this epic story of families, secrets, folklore and landscape has been the perfect remedy, allowing me to totally lose myself in the pages. So much happens and over a long period of time, but the book doesn’t feel overly plot driven and has perfect pace. Gorgeous prose. Amazing that this is a debut.
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Sep 10, 2020 marked it as did-not-finish
I see all the good reviews... this should be my cold weather island catnip but I'm struggling to connect with it... letting it go for now. ...more
Melania 🍒
Oct 30, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2020-in-12-books

Wow, talking about stellar debuts!
Lindsay Woolley
Jan 25, 2020 rated it liked it
*Thank you to Netgalley and Canongate for my advanced copy of The Island Child*

A dark tale of family secrets woven with Irish folklore. The Island Child spans across the lifetime of Oona, flicking between her younger and adult self. As a child she is extremely restricted at home with her emotionless and religious mother. We see her exploring relationships, teaching herself about life and yearning for freedom. The lack of support and want in her own home leads to her becoming a distant and lone c
Ellis (whatellisreadnext)
Jan 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing
'I couldn't put words to the waves that drowned my mind.'
Oona grew up on the Island of Inis, spending most of her childhood wishing to escape. In the present day, she must return to the island and face her demons.
You should read this book. I finished it over a week ago but Oona and her story are still rooted deep inside of me. This one really leaves a mark on the soul, you get so lost in in her life; the trauma she goes through will stay with me for a very long time. The fact that this is Ait
Out of the Bex
A fog of melancholic and otherworldly milieu, Molly Aitken offers a view into the isolation of island living and the bleaker side of childhood trauma—which can't always be escaped. Though at first The Island Child captured my interest and the lyrical writing satisfied my predilection for a literary writing style, as the pages flipped forward it became hard to mark the difference between sporadic transitions of past and present, just as it became more difficult to rediscover my initial interest i ...more
Jul 04, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Bare legs hadn’t mattered the summer before, when I was still thirteen, but being fourteen and no longer at school meant wearing clothes with shame to hide my body like all women must."

This book is about women and for women. The feelings, the secrets, the shames, the pressures.
This book is about how much of a burden being a woman is, it is poignant and emotionally draining.

"I’d seen that if you spoke your bitterness it spread and grew in others too."

"‘Here.’ She handed me a piece of cloth. ‘Put
rina dunn
Feb 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
What a glorious read this book is!
Steeped in Irish Folklore the prose in this book is stunning!
The story itself is set around Oona a child born on the Island and flits between her as a child and her as a mother.
It looks a lot at Motherhood both the relationship between Oona and her Mother and herself as a Mother to Joyce.
I related in a lot of ways to Oona shes such a free spirit and found her super likeable.
I loved the darkness and myth surrounding this beautiful tale of what it was like to gro
Jan 27, 2020 rated it really liked it
Irish writing seems to be at the forefront of publishing this year, authors old and new dazzling with their vibrant, lyrical novels.

The Island Child by Molly Aitken was another to add the list and oh how i loved it. The past and the present was brought beautifully to life by Aitken as she told the story of Oona, a child born during a storm, a mother who guarded her, cursed her, hid her love as she left her adrift unable to understand herself and her relationships with those around her.

It was har
Geonn Cannon
May 28, 2020 rated it liked it
My review is probably biased, but I don't care. I'm growing to despise novels that alternate chapters between two eras. The main character is a naive child, the main character is a mature adult, back and forth. Information that is vital to the present-day character isn't revealed until nearly the end of the book. I've said it's like being forced to read a book and it's sequel at the same time. The writing and story are fine, but I hope this trend - which almost always detracts from the story rat ...more
Jan Priddy
Feb 05, 2021 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I almost didn't rate it. I "did not like it." The writer has considerable skill and promise, great promise, or perhaps she is merely clever.

The author is young and her editors didn't know enough to correct her few errors. They so rarely do. But if readers come to the book more interested in seeing others' suffering than is seeing how they recover from tragedy, they will not feel about the book the way I do. Hence many high ratings.

The three-way timeline did not work particularly well for me be
Donna Hines
Jul 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley, arc
"The Island Child tells two stories: of the child who grew up watching births and betrayals, storms and secrets, and of the adult Oona, desperate to find a second chance, only to discover she can never completely escape. As the strands of Oona’s life come together, in blood and marriage and motherhood, she must accept the price we pay when we love what is never truly ours . . ."
Trust me this premise and the subsequent writings will leave you breathless.
Oona's story is one of passion, intrigue, a
Jan 17, 2021 rated it it was amazing
With atmospheric, poignant prose the author tells a tale of a girl born on a fictional tiny Irish island where the community is poor and heavily religious, education and job opportunities are limited (especially for the female population), and the children are unable to be anything different from the "norm" for fear of becoming an outcast. The girl grows up with a cruel and narrow-minded mother who is borderline obsessed with the church and the belief women are inherently evil and born sinners. ...more
Rachel Rowlands
Mar 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I was lucky enough to read an early version of this book. The writing is stunning and such a pleasure to experience, and this is a gorgeous, lyrical tale of mothers and daughters, with a vivid Irish backdrop. Oona is raised in a small, remote Irish island, and the story explores how her own upbringing affects her experience of motherhood as an adult after leaving the island, and the search for her own daughter. The exploration of mother-daughter relationships in this book is spot-on, and the ele ...more
Aug 28, 2020 rated it liked it
This was a thorny read for me. Though not because it's bad or because of any flaws in the author's writing or storytelling.

The story is set on an island off the west coast of Ireland, called Inis. The island in the novel is fictional, but the model for it is a place where I used to live, Inis Oirr, the smallest of the Aran Islands. Down to details like a castle ruin on a hill, a shipwreck, a cave, a beach, a lighthouse, proximity to Galway and Clare, a new pier, and a leaning on tourism for liv
Mar 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favourites
This is a lot different to the books I usually read but I actually really enjoyed it!
Nov 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: arc
Mother-daughter relationships, secrets and superstition.

Oona is born into an isolated fishing community on an imaginary island off the coast of Ireland. As a child, she is drawn to Felim, the feral son of outsider and purported witch, Aislinn. His growing resentment of the islanders’ abuse sours his relationship with Oona. She leaves the island, only to find it is not so easy to escape her memories.

This is a world in which men battle the sea to put food on the table, while women tend the home an
Britt Beam
Aug 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
I thought this book was brilliant, especially from the mind of such a young author. Her prose is unique, with its trending towards simplicity, it makes the reader fully engrosses with the primitive upbringing of the protagonist, Oona. Oona is being raised on the isolated -and smallest island in the Arran Islands- Inis Oirr. She lives in a community where women take on a dated role of glorified housekeeper, and never leave the island. Her mother is seemingly devout and often hypocritical in her r ...more
Katie Grainger
Aug 10, 2020 rated it really liked it
I really liked the start of The Island Child, but I felt it lost its way a little bit towards the middle once Oona left the island. I loved her upbringing and her complicated relationship with her mother. I think I just went into this book with expectations and they weren’t really met, I thought the book was light fantasy but it was too realistic I couldn’t understand the fantasy element.

The writing for this book was impressive but I struggled with a few elements including Oona and Pat’s relatio
Jan 08, 2020 rated it liked it
The Island Child tells two stories: of the child who grew up watching births and betrayals, storms and secrets, and of the adult Oona, desperate to find a second chance, only to discover she can never completely escape.

It's a slow building book to begin, melancholic and moving, and much darker than initially expected. A tale of island life that never really leaves those involved.
Aug 11, 2020 rated it it was ok
What a waste.
While this begins with promising writing and a compelling story, this tale falls apart halfway through--and only gets worse on the final pages. Truly, left me wondering what and why??
Disappointed and more than a little angry that I wasted my time on this book.
What in the world was the author's intention?
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Molly Aitken was born in Scotland in 1991 and brought up in Ireland. She has an MA in Creative Writing from Bath Spa where she won the Janklow and Nesbit Prize.

Molly now lives in Sheffield with her husband.

Follow Molly on twitter at MollyAitken1 and Instagram molly.aitken

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