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A Swift Pure Cry [Paperback]

Siobhan Dowd
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
RRP: 6.99
Price: 5.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over 10. Details
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Book Description

1 July 2010
After Shell's mother dies, her obsessively religious father descends into alcoholic mourning and Shell is left to care for her younger brother and sister. Her only release from the harshness of everyday life comes from her budding spiritual friendship with a naive young priest, and most importantly, her developing relationship with childhood friend, Declan, charming, eloquent and persuasive. But when Declan suddenly leaves Ireland to seek his fortune in America, Shell finds herself pregnant and the centre of a scandal that rocks the small community in which she lives, with repercussions across the whole country. The lives of those immediately around her will never be the same again.

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A Swift Pure Cry + Bog Child + Solace of the Road
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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: David Fickling Books (PB) (1 July 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1849920532
  • ISBN-13: 978-1849920537
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 142,685 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"Movingly written, this is a sad but not a dismal story, given Shell's resilient personality and the support she gets from a generous-hearted priest. This debut novel is a fine and memorable achievement: it never sells its characters short and always stays close to what was thought to have happened at the time" (Nick Tucker Independent)

"It's a beautifully written, lyrical story" (Tony Bradman PEN)

"In a densely woven tapestry of poetic language, sensations, and childhood experience, Dowd's characters stumble through life, bewildered and bereaved, reviving feelings and emotions that are most usually pushed into the back recesses of the mind" (Jamila Gavin Guardian)

"This story is told with the innocence and naivety of a young girl and leaves the reader to feel the true emotion behind it. This story will have you hooked; you will go through the usual emotions a well-written book should stir up - laughter, sadness, anger, and compassion" (Irish Post)

"A superb first novel, beautifully written, deeply moving and full of heartbreak. Siobhan Dowd writes without judgement but with enormous sympathy and understanding" (Julia Eccleshare Love Reading 4 Kids)

Book Description

This is an extraordinary story of one girl's courage in the face of prejudice and hardship within a small community in Ireland.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
54 of 55 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Courtesy of Teens Read Too 10 April 2007
By TeensReadToo TOP 500 REVIEWER
After her mother died, fifteen-year-old Shell is left to take care of her younger brother and sister and her drunken father. They live in a small Irish village in a little farmhouse. Her mother's death has caused her father to drink even more than he did before, and in sudden religious zeal, he goes out daily to make his "collections." These donations are meant for the church, but he takes out more than his fair share before turning in the remains.

Life is difficult. Shell is teased at school and skips out as much as possible. She attempts to look to the church for support, and a new young priest seems to offer a shoulder to lean on. Eventually, Shell seeks emotional release in a relationship with an older boy. They begin a secret relationship spent mostly hidden in the barley field where Declan takes advantage of Shell's need for tenderness. The inevitable happens - Shell becomes pregnant. Without her mother to confide in, Shell hides her condition, using a stolen library book to help her understand what is about to happen.

Shell is an amazing young girl. She struggles to hold the family together and deal with her circumstances as best she can. As the story unfolds, readers will be surprised at the unpredictable turn of events for Shell, her father, the young priest, and all involved in the unfortunate tragedy.

A SWIFT PURE CRY uses Irish dialect and lyrical prose to draw the reader into Shell's world. Her courage and faith shine clearly through this heartbreaking tale.

Reviewed by: Sally Kruger, aka "Readingjunky"
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27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A swift pure cry Review March 2006 23 Mar 2006
I really enjoyed this book and was captivated from the first page.
It is a beautifully written, thought provoking novel, dealing sensitively with the complexities of love, loss and faith.
The characters are well developed and believable. I was entranced by fifteen year old Shell, whose courage and emotional strength is inspirational.
I found the story uplifting but at times heartbreaking. Ultimately I was filled with a sense of hope throughout.
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34 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant 13 April 2006
By William
I couldn't put it down - the most compelling, beautifully written book I have read for a very long time. Shell is a heartbreakingly lovely heroine and the book is written with such a lightness of touch and depth of feeling that what is essentially a tragic story is ultimately uplifting and full of hope.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A lovely book 3 May 2008
I read this book last year as part of the Carnegie Award with two of my friends. We each had to choose a book randomly out of a carrier bag and I ended up with this one. I'm so glad that I did! The cover is beautiful and the story itself is lovely. After the award finished I went to my local library to find the book so that I could read it again I loved it that much! I would recommend the book to anyone, young or old.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
This book is published under a "young adult" imprint, but the issues Dowd so deftly works through here are universal and, while Shell, the protagonist, is a teenage girl, I believe this is a book that would move readers of all ages. I often have a problem with publishers assuming they must "dumb down" for younger readers (as with the dire Twilight novels - hello? We've had feminism haven't we? Women don't always need "saving" thanks very much), so I found Dowd's narrative refreshingly astute. Yes, she tells the tale in simple language, but never does she flinch from dark and in some places horrific situations, which in some circles would be deemed too "strong" for younger readers.

This is a beautiful and moving book about family, faith, loss and small towns. I was sorry to learn that the author has since died, which seems all the more sad, being as she must have been relatively young. A book that seems so effortlessly, deceptively simple in the telling and which I would recommend to anyone who ever questioned the whys and wherefores of life, death and how we as a society deal with those things... Gosh, that sounds a bit deep! But it's not just that - this book feels invigorating and real and bubbles with truth and hope and love.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best book I've read this year so far! 25 April 2008
Format:Library Binding
This book is amazing. From the opening page, the author is able to transfix and captivate the reader. The tale is told by a heart moving heroine, shell, who has a troubled life. The way Dowd is able to draw sympathy from the reader for the heroine adn her brother and sister is magnificent.
The tale is a beautiful one, with a moving portrait captured of life in a small Irish catholic village, and the problems associated by the insular life this entails.
This book actually moved me to tears.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Well written with a good twist 20 Mar 2008
By H.P.
Although this storyline has been endlessly covered before - Irish Catholic family living in poverty, father a Bible-bashing alcoholic, priests, a main character who is a naive young thing who gets into 'trouble' etc Dowd's lightness of touch engaged me sufficiently to finish it. The twist towards the end raised it from a three to a four star but I was still a little unsure of when the book was actually meant to be set and I read the first half with such a sense of foreboding it prevented me from fully enjoying it. Definitely worth a read, though.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tragic and so compelling 3 July 2009
What a fabulous read! I raced through it in a day and just couldnt put it down.

I thought this was one of the most compelling and beautifully written books that I have read in months, and although aimed at older teenagers, it wasnt in the least patronising or simplified.

The heroine of the story - Shell, is at times heartbreakingly sad yet such a strong and loyal character too.

This is a very tragic story and inspired by true events, yet despite the tragic circumstances the story ends full of hope.

There is no doubt that when Siobhan Dowd died that Ireland really did lose one of it's greatest authors.I
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Touching and irritating
This is a wonderful book, with flaws. In that it contrasts with <Bog Child>, which is a wonderful book full stop. Read more
Published 4 months ago by R. A. Williams
3.0 out of 5 stars Slightly disappointed
I'd heard about this book on several occasions so I finally decided to give it a read. Having read the book's description and the first few chapters, I was excited. Read more
Published 14 months ago by JTS
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly recommended
Such a moving tale of love and loyalty. One minute I was laughing out loud, and then I felt the deep despair and sadness the children were going through. Read more
Published 19 months ago by Jean Vickers
1.0 out of 5 stars really grubby and unpleasant
This books conditon is most displeasing. It is grubby, old, creased, faded and generally undesirable. It has put me off reading it. Read more
Published on 21 Oct 2011 by Annie
5.0 out of 5 stars Real and Beautiful
Shell feels invisible; her mum is dead and dad dosen't care. She looks after her brother and sister and tries not to get in her dad's way, but then a young minister comes to her... Read more
Published on 13 Nov 2010 by bookworm
5.0 out of 5 stars Powerful Without Judgement
This book was recommended to me by one of the librarians at the Birr Library Co Offaly during a recent holiday in Birr during January, 2009. Read more
Published on 11 Jun 2009 by Wendy Lohse
4.0 out of 5 stars Heartbreaking, but lovely....
This is a really thought provoking book which is aimed squarely at teenage girls, however I am sure many adults would enjoy it also. Read more
Published on 16 Mar 2009 by Catrin Williams
1.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing
Having read the other books by her, I was keen to read this one, plus my friend thought it was amazing. I got through it quickly, partly because I wanted it to end or get better. Read more
Published on 18 May 2008 by Karen Gregory
5.0 out of 5 stars A fantastic read for bright children
I really enjoyed reading this book and found Dowd's lyrical style to be addictive. It is set in Ireland and the imagery magically paints a picture of the scenery, clothes and... Read more
Published on 28 Mar 2008 by skivoogle
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