When Maeve O’Brien’s boss sends her to a dreary old island to finalise some paperwork, she couldn’t be happier. It’s the career boost she needs to become a fully-fledged lawyer – besides, it hasn’t been so great on the home front in Dublin.
Maeve’s oldest friend and flat-mate has kicked her out, and moving back in with her uptight mother has been less than cosy. But her reception on Hy Brasil, a remote island off the west coast of Ireland, couldn’t be any more hostile – it’s as if the island itself wants her gone. The locals are all ancient – and spookily well preserved – and they’re all so nasty. And what is that terrible screaming noise that echoes around the island?
I had really high hopes for this book, spurred on by this interview with Ellie O’Neill. It sounded totally up my alley, for a light and fun read. Light and a bit fun it was indeed, but unfortunately I found the main character, Maeve, almost totally unbearable.
Maeve is a typical self absorbed, selfie loving young woman, who has dug an enormous hole for herself. She has a huge credit card debt and has really messed up her social life. I thought she sounded pretty relatable, but it turns out she was rather self centred and annoying, and didn’t change fast enough for me to be able to like her. I got the impression that whilst her attitude changed on Hy Brasil, she would go back to Dublin and carry on how she was before. She reminded me of one of those selfish dumb women on a reality show, all bleach blonde hair and eyelash extensions (and she had both, if my memory serves me correctly!) She was, however, perfectly voiced and characterised, which shows me that O’Neill is a good writer and a whiz at getting personalities right.
The mystery behind the island was the only thing that kept me going, to be perfectly honest. I considered giving up a few times before the 30% mark, but then decided to continue on to find out what happened. There was an air of menace through the book, which kept me interested, and I kind of wanted to see Maeve eaten by some kind of mystical Irish bog monster. Unfortunately, the ending kind of sputtered to a halt, with a kind of solution-dump to wind off the mystery. I was pretty gobsmacked by it, but I wish the revelation had happened earlier, with some kind of resolution to the whole debacle.
The side characters were interesting and quite fun, and I thought the old people were pretty interesting in their weirdo ways. Killian was probably the least interesting of the lot, but I wasn’t bothered by it, since I didn’t feel any great love for Maeve either. I did laugh out loud at a few points, which is always a nice thing!
The elements of Irish mysticism were fabulous, and O’Neill’s writing style does draw you in, but unfortunately this just wasn’t really the book for me. I’d definitely recommend it to anyone who likes light and funny books, with a twist of Ireland and the supernatural. Other people might have a higher tolerance for people like Maeve, or perhaps this just came at the wrong time for me. I did enjoy it enough to finish it, and was drawn in and excited to find out the conclusion. I’d like to read another of Ellie O’Neill’s books, since my problem was more with the main character than with the writing or story!