Oona grew up on the island of Inis: a wind-blasted rock off the coast of Ireland where the men went out on fishing boats and the women tended turf fires; where the only book was the Bible; and where girls stayed at home until they became mothers themselves. The island was a gift for some, a prison for others.
For a debut novelist, Aitken has an impressive command of language, capturing the spirit of Inis in lush, sea-sprayed descriptions of the Irish coast ... Tone is clearly Aitken’s strongest asset as careful attention is given to characterising the island’s atmosphere, more so than to the inhabitants themselves. While Oona’s complicated love/hate relationship for the island is well articulated, other characters are often reduced to cardboard cutouts, propped up to support Oona’s own story and voice ... Firmly rooted in Irish folklore and tradition, The Island Child delicately touches on the community’s tensions with motherhood, gender, religion and guilt. While its supporting characters needed some expansion, Aitken beautifully captures the push and pull of homecoming and homegoing through her protagonist. The Island Child is an impressive debut.
... a book whose plot is driven by mystery, but whose success is less so in the discoveries than in the telling ... Aitken’s evocative prose immerses us in island life and in the book’s central themes: motherhood, loss, the transformative power of stories ... Italicised passages at the end of sections bring an otherworldly feel to the book ... pacing is a problem, particularly in the book’s later stages where huge, life-altering events are dealt with in a matter of pages ... The success of the book is the vibrancy of its writing and narrative voice. Readers will be carried along by Oona whose struggles are full of pathos ... Character description and dialogue are also notably strong throughout, with welcome flashes of humour in the latter.
A dreamy fairy tale winds its way through this moody story of loss and redemption, which focuses on mothers and daughters and the ways in which they grow apart and sometimes find their way back. For most fiction readers.