Current Affairs

Island of Wings – Karin Altenberg – 4/10 (DNF)

“At last the firm ground of Hirta, our lost Eden!”

Neil McKenzie is a minister, called to serve the people of St Kilda, the most remote part of the British Isles, in 1830. His new and pregnant wife Lizzie follows him, despite speaking no Gaelic and having no company when her husband is away. Can they ever be happy in such an abandoned place?

The writing about nature is undeniably beautiful and skilful; I cannot imagine writing like this in my first language, never mind a second (Altenberg is Swedish). However, the book is so, so bleak and dreary. No end of childhood births, no particular plot progression within 120 pages (at which point I stopped); everything is as grey as the sky and sea which surrounds the island.

The political environs of the time were somewhat alien to me and not explained at all, so I think you need a decent background in Scottish and church history around 1830, as well as an understanding of missions.

Other reviews: Iris on Books, Vulpes Libris, Cornflower Books, Lizzy Siddal, Farm Lane Books, Cardigangirlverity (mostly all positive)

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4 thoughts on “Island of Wings – Karin Altenberg – 4/10 (DNF)”

  1. I’m sorry this didn’t work for you. I do agree that the plot is quite slow. But for me it was fascinating because of it’s major themes of missionaries, gender, and othering, but that’s mostly to do with my reading so much on that topic for my thesis.

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