| 3.8°C Dublin

Close

Premium

Tale of the sins of motherhood bristles with Irish and Greek folklore

Fiction: The Island Child

Molly Aitken

Canongate, hardback, 320 pages, €21

Close

Exciting new voice: Molly Aitken

Exciting new voice: Molly Aitken

The Island Child by Molly Aitken

The Island Child by Molly Aitken

/

Exciting new voice: Molly Aitken

'Babies don't have a choice about anything," writes Molly Aitken in The Island Child - an intriguing debut about motherhood, the trauma we inherit and the inescapability of fate. Set on an imagined island off the west coast, sometime in the mid-20th century, the novel tracks the development of the protagonist, Oona, from girlhood to motherhood: her harsh and tide-beaten early years, her ill-fated escape from the island and her eventual homecoming and redemption.

Aitken, who was born in 1991 and studied Literature and Classics at NUI Galway, is a direct contemporary of Sally Rooney. Both write well about sexual violence, and women in psychological distress. The comparison between them, though, ends there. Aitken's prose is more generous - and more old-fashioned - with none of the tart irony that has made Rooney a household name.

The Island Child leads us back to an older Ireland, one familiar as an archetype in much Irish storytelling, a place of curraghs, peat fires and a vengeful Catholic God. Women are bound to the hearth and cradle, "tied to the harbour of mothering", Aitken writes. "Girls were drowned in the tides of birthing blood. Men fought to death on the sea, women in the home." Gripped by a religious mania, Oona's abusive mother is at once tormented and tormenting. The novel visits the sins of the mother upon her daughter, as a traumatised Oona neglects in turn her own child, Joyce.