Island of Wings by Karin Altenberg – Review

Island of Wings

I read this because one of the booksellers at the Leading Edge conference said that St Kilda was fascinating, and he is right – the story of St Kilda is mesmerising and anyone who is even mildly interested in historical fiction will really enjoy this.

This book grabbed me on a number of levels – for the amazing society of the St Kilda people, for the fascinating look into their lives and why 8 out of 10 babies died in their first 8 days, and for the marriage ‘in peril’ of the missionary Neil McKenzie and his young wife.

This is the fictionalised account of a real couple who were missionaries to St Kilda in the early 19th Century

St Kilda is the remotest reach of the British Isle, north west off Scotland. It is cold, cliffy, lacking in vegetation, and crowded with birds – hence the book’s title ‘Island of Wings’.

The inhabitants spoke Gaelic and had Scottish names, but their daily lives were unique. They were forced to hibernate in winter in their dugout dwellings, and lay down their own excrement to use as fertiliser when spring came. They were a remarkably successful society.

Karin Altenberg is Swedish, but I believe she lives in the UK with her British husband and family and wrote this book in English, and her writing is rich and smooth.

By Jenny Mann

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