Book #53

The Gloaming by Kirsty Logan

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.

I felt every word of this. Each sentence seemed to sink under my skin and swim directly to my heart, sometimes gently touching it, sometimes piercing. I devoured it all like an enchanted medicine, more more, until I reached the end. I was filled with wonder, awe, devastation. I thought about life, about wanting, about happy endings. But mostly, I thought about my own life’s small magic, and the importance of keeping that kindled.

The writing is deeply atmospheric and ethereal. The island’s moods and tides are depicted gloriously to the point where I felt goosebumps raise on my arms, and I could almost, but not quite, taste the salt. There’s water throughout the pages, the sea commands the whole book, taking away sins and giving some back.

Logan’s characters are wonderfully fleshed out, raw and real. We flick around in time to see their backstories and development juxtaposed. They are broken, they are flawed, they look at their lives and see only failures. It’s horribly akin to all that we are.

There’s a lot of references to fairy tales and folklore here, made all the more wonderful as I’m currently working my way through the complete collection of Grimm tales. It felt like providence; mermaids, swans, and princesses conquering my life, the realisation that the stories we’re told as children have been diluted - injecting us with happiness, rather than allowing us insight into life’s cruelties. As though you must be of a certain age before you learn that people don’t stay, that some things can’t be mended, and that life continues after the happy ending.

The book explains to us that an island is a destination; it’s not a place you travel through accidentally. You can stay forever, or you can leave to seek out whatever the island doesn’t provide. Whilst reading, I applied that beautiful idea to my mind as an island, my life as an island. It helps things make sense.

Magical, stormy, beautiful.