I read this book as part of another #WECAN book club. It was yet another book recommended by someone else, this time by a young and very talented colleague who read Page’s previous books (I didn’t) and thought it might be worth reading this one too.
This recommendation was not one of those FFS moments which I often experience when people recommend books but then I often end up liking them. I was OK with this right from the start because I’ve always liked human stories and even when I worked as a journalist, I often did similar stuff and talked to people. It is no wonder I ended up doing a PhD in Sociology having always studied comms before that and it is what drives my research up to today, talking to people and learning about their lives. This book is about that but so much more.
We learn that Lorna has left her home island, Kip in Scotland, running away from her family and basically hating the island because of her early experiences there. We learn about these experiences slowly throughout the book, so the writing keeps the reader engaged and wanting more info. I was asking questions throughout the reading wondering if they would be answered and they were, beautifully, just as you no longer expect them you read it and say, a-ha, that makes sense. Lorna, however, finds herself in a situation where she has to go back more than 20 years since she escaped as a teenager and moved to London because her daughter found her cousin online and started chatting so when Lorna’s parents die, her daughter wants to go to the funeral and meet Lorna’s brother, his wife and their daughter as well as learn about the island community. This is not a spoiler as this is in the first pages of the book.
What really touched me in the book, and kind of hit home, is the description of Lorna entering Scotland on the train. When she sees mountains, she realises that no matter how much she loves London and living there, she longs for mountains. I immediately felt as if my eyes opened and saw the world in a different light. I grew up in Dalmatia (the Croatian coast) and no matter how much I love living in England and feel this country adopted me as one of its own since day one (this is indeed true), I long for the Adriatic sea, the water, the smell of salt, and the wind that makes waves jump, dance, makes a mess out of your hair when you walk next to the beach when it is not summer of course, then you are burnt to death with Croatian heat. But at all other times of the year, it is glorious to watch the waves play, and dance and that smell of water and salt are beyond description. As Lorna says in the book it is indeed where we grew up that determines what we like and even if we move to create life elsewhere, we miss it without being aware of it. I realised that water also determines my career in some ways as well as my relationships. So, for example, I loved Stockholm, and it remains one of my favourite European visits ever because it is a city on water. It is not the Adriatic Sea, but it is water, it has that smell of water and that peculiar wind and the feeling the wind near the water creates. So, as soon as someone tells me they are Swedish, I tend to react very positively, and I was not even aware of that until I read this book.
What is also fabulously described in the book is the sense of community on the island and how sometimes we blame places for nasty stuff some individuals did to us. Lorna was running away from the island because of her parents and a family situation but once she came back, she realised the community has always supported her and has been there for her, including now when she returned. This also hit home as I also did not go to Dalmatia for decades and only started to visit regularly the last year when I also realised that just because some people were nasty to me and my mom, the community has always been nice and supportive. Nasty people in my case did not die but I do not care about them anymore and I enjoy walks near the beach and the smell and the feeling only the Adriatic Sea can create for me. I enjoy looking like everyone else, using my stretchy southern accent without thinking I sound like an idiot. It is even nicer to return to England after that visit and feel grateful for the fact I have two homelands and my heart is divided between two countries I call my own. The sense of community on the island and the way the author described it definitely has that feel-good feeling and this is what is amazing about this lovely, lovely book that made me reflect on my life and feel more grateful for what I have.
An amazing book with the most astonishing descriptions. I felt almost as if I know islanders and loved the community to the point that I felt sorry when I finished the book. I am grateful I read it; this is definitely one of the book club reads that will not be given away but happily live on my shelve until I read it again and again.
Thank you for reading.