Haven by Emma Donoghue @PicadorBooks #Haven #EmmaDonoghue #HistoricalFiction #TheClqrt #BookReview

Picador Books August 2022

Book Description

In seventh – century Ireland, a scholar and priest called Artt has a dream telling him to leave the sinful world behind. Taking two monks – young Trian and old Cormac – he rows down the river Shannon in search of an isolated spot on which to found a monastery. Drifting out into the Atlantic, the three men find an impossibly steep, bare island inhabited by tens of thousands of birds, and claim it for God. In such a place, what will survival mean?

My Thoughts

With thanks to Emma at Bookbreak for my proof copy of The Haven which published in August 2022. A work of fiction, although location and activity of early monks are historically accurate, the characters in this book are fictitious.

Occupying a remote and arguably uninhabitable island, monks Cormac and Trian, led by Artt seek to make a life off the land. Believing God has guided them there and all that occurs is his will. With Artt wholeheartedly led by his faith, any questions raised by the other two are viewed therefore as lack of faith and in need of penance.

The circumstances in which the men found themselves living can only be described as dire, at times grossly unwell or starving, death seemed close. Personally I found it difficult to comprehend the commitment to obey and I found myself frequently viewing Artt as an abusive captor rather than a faithful leader. To place their lives in the hands of God and to be at his will, when everything seemed to point against this was hard to understand.

I liked the author’s notes which referenced the location – Skellig Michael which has evidence of early monastic settlements – it is suggested these settlers, in order to survive would have needed more pragmatism and a willingness to trade, plus potentially not living on the location for 12 months a year. This made more sense to me and made the story more palatable, but this was a work of fiction and in telling the story as she did, the author created suspense and tension; a sense of intrigue and foreboding. It kept me gripped and at just 252 pages was a relatively quick read. A fascinating story drawing on historical facts – will you be reading The Haven?

Thanks as always for reading.

About the Author

Emma Donoghue was born in Dublin and now lives in Canada. Emma writes fiction, as well as drama for screen and stage. Room was a New York Times Best Book of 2010 and a finalist for the Man Booker, Commonwealth and Orange Prizes. Donoghue was nominated for an Academy Award for her 2015 adaptation starring Brie Larson. She co wrote the screenplay for the film of her 2016 novel The Wonder, starring Florence Pugh, coming from Netflix this year.


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