The enchanting fairy tale woven from seaweed, sea, sand and selkies by Flora Kennedy was a pleasure to read.
Sibilant alliteration throughout the prose carries the reader along on waves lapping the shores of the Hebridean islands, reminding this reader of Ring of Bright Water.
The Wild Folk is the kind of book that almost reviews itself: the reviewer cannot really add anything except an admonition to buy it.
“He’d slither through the seaweed, its flowing, feeling, fingers of fronds fondling and tangling and he would point to the place he was going to land himself, always a different place, with a bony pale white finger at the end of his lanky arm and I would race over to that spot of his choosing and wait and watch. Me on the grounded shore. Lachie in the flowing water. Separated.”
Lachie and Lorna, Lorna and Lachie. Islanders. This is their story. They form a very insular, inseparable pair, until Lorna grows up and joins the world of the others. It is a story of formal education vs. the lessons of the sea; of adults vs. children; dying in hospitals vs. dying on the island. It is a story of secrets: dangerous secrets and tender secrets.
The relationships are deep as the eyes of Uncle Niall’s cows; as deep as the flowers and foliage; as deep as the pools where Lorna and Lachie swam as children.
Kennedy tells us:
‘The thing about Coll Finn is that it’s precious piece of land in wild sea; an island we can cling to while the waters all around us change. That’s why islands are so special.’
“Our signal is a scarlet handkerchief of my mother’s that I wrap around a round grey stone on the roof. The stone is there on the corner to stop the tarred roofing material curling off in the heat. Lachie can see the roof of the caravan, the big caravan that is, not the small one perched on the side of it like a wee fluffy fledgling tucked into its mother’s breast. Lachie can see the red from the hill at the end of Struan beach between his place and ours and knows it’s safe for him to come.”
Through Kennedy’s book, we are fortunate to get an introduction to the Gàidhlig phrases which convey meanings between and among the island folk of the Outer Hebrides, the ancient language of their ancestors.
‘Auntie Ruby told me that if I collect enough sheep’s wool I can use it stuff a cushion and maybe she’ll give me one of her old summer dresses to use as a cover’ I say and Lachie smiles and nods ‘tha sin uabhasach math’
We learn a bit of Western Isles history:
“Later in Oban there was a girl at my school who was eerily beautiful with her brown skin and black curls. We were friends for a few weeks and she said she had been told she was a throw-back to the Spanish invaders centuries ago. I told her she looked Maori to me and how I wished I looked like her and I told her of the Maori shearers who slept where they were welcomed.”
It is a story of death and mystery: Who killed Lachie? My only quibble is with the structure in the middle of the book – the voice changes suddenly.
At the wake we meet some of the island folk: We meet John-Mac, the constable; Aunt Ruby; Kirsty, Johnny, Freya and Finn; Agnes and Jack; Mrs. Cuddy, the librarian; Hughie and Seumus; Margaret Petersen and others. Alec and Dougal are there along with Big Brodie, Fergus and Jordan. Significantly, we do not meet Malky. But we learn some devastating truths.
The language is poetic and ever evocative:
“They are like the standing stones at Totronald transposed there onto Struan beach. Quiet, ancient sentinels to something no-one remembers or knows.”
Leila Smith, for The Kindle Book Review. This is an independent, fair and honest review. We are not associated with the author nor with Amazon.