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Island of Wings Paperback – 2 Feb 2012

4.2 out of 5 stars 78 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: riverrun (2 Feb. 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0857382330
  • ISBN-13: 978-0857382337
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 2.5 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (78 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 89,703 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

'A beautiful story of love and loss, precise, subtle, spiritually alive' Andrew O'Hagan. (Andrew O'Hagan)

'Karin Altenberg's debut novel is an impressive work of research and descriptive writing about Nature and place in a second language ... a penetrating insight into the psychology of a religious zealot and a relationship rolling inevitably towards destruction' Country Life. (Country Life)

'Compelling' Daily Mail. (Daily Mail)

'This is an accomplished debut, beautiful and compelling' Good Book Guide. (Good Book Guide)

'Emotional intensity is foregrounded and the nuances of Neil and Lizzie's relationship are set out in the writing like a heart on a sleeve ... Neil's psychological flaws are convincingly drawn' Guardian. (Guardian)

'Her literary achievement is astonishing ... A superb book' Scotsman. (Scotsman)

'I was enchanted by the magic of the storytelling. This is a novelist with a future' Michael Holroyd, New Statesman. (New Statesman)

'Stunning' Guardian. (Guardian)

'This lovely, haunting novel evokes the rough beauty of St Kilda ... A story of faith and love' The Times. (The Times)

From the Back Cover

July, 1830. On the ten-hour sailing west from the Hebrides to the islands of St Kilda, everything lies ahead for Lizzie and Neil MacKenzie. Neil is to become the minister to the small community of islanders and Lizzie, his new wife, is pregnant with their first child. Neil's journey is evangelical: a testing and strengthening of his own faith against the old pagan ways of the St Kildans, but it is also a passage to atonement. For Lizzie - bright, beautiful and devoted - this is an adventure, a voyage into the unknown. As the two adjust to life on an exposed archipelago on the edge of civilization, where the natives live in squalor and babies perish mysteriously in their first week, their marriage - and their sanity - is threatened. Is Lizzie a wilful temptress drawing him away from his faith? Is Neil's zealous Christianity unhinging into madness? And who, or what, is haunting the moors and cliff-tops? Exquisitely written and profoundly moving, Island of Wings is more than just an account of a marriage in peril - it is also a richly imagined novel about two people struggling to keep their love, and their family, alive in a place of terrible hardship and tumultuous beauty.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This is a wonderfully evocative book, based around the true tenure of the minister of the Church sent to the islands of St Kilda, Neil MacKenzie and his wife, in 1830. From then, until the book ends in 1844, we read of the lives of not only MacKenzie and his spiritual quest, but his wife and her own quest, and we catch glimpses of the lives of those who have for centuries endured life in the harsh environment of St Kilda. Stuck on small islands at the mercy of the elements, those who survived life in the St Kilda islands had a unique outlook on life, the universe, and their place within it. This is captured beautifully in this story; life was harsh, but made sense to the islanders. The cycle of life and death was real and known to them; their own struggles to bear and raise children to ensure the surirval of their way of life on the islands echo the struggles of the islands themselves, and the wildlife living on them.

I love books about times, people and places who are so far removed from our own lives and times; and this book captures a time and place that is totally alien to us now, so far distant in both its own reality and its own time. A time, unfortunately, that was doomed to eventually end for those who had for centuries survived on the harsh world on the edge of the Atlantic.

A wonderful story, beautifully written; highly recommended.
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Format: Paperback
This is a well researched and well written book. Based on historical fact and with imagined emotion, the lives within the story are well presented. The characters are carefully drawn. The St Kildan culture is sensitively portrayed. The stories of the people, the land and the human emotion are raw and believable. I enjoyed being drawn into the lives of the islanders and the MacKenzies and have been inspired to do my own research into St Kilda before, and after the time in which the book is set.

I love the fact that this is an historical novel and that the stories of the characters continues after the last page.

An easy, thought provoking and thoroughly interesting read.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I bought this book because I was interested in the life of the people of St Kilda. I have previously read the book, St Kilda. I was not disappointed. It is a well researched book with a vast amount of information, and I enjoyed it for that reason. I can see the hovels where the people lived, I can almost fell the stench! However, on a down note, I believe the author would have been better writing the book as a non-fiction. Most of the time it reads like a text book. The characters are poorly portrayed and I cannot care about them. They move along like cardboard cut outs - no depth. I don't know them, I don't even know what they feel for eachother. I can imagin How Lizzie must have felt being taken away from all she knew to live amongst people with whom she could not even communicate. The loneliness must have been dreadful, yet none of this comes accross. We are TOLD occassionally what they feel, but never SHOWN either by actions or words.
In short, this is a brilliant source of information,and as such, I would score it highly, but as a novel, it does not work. It does not have the emotional impact or the build up of tension needed in fiction, which is a pity.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I have a long standing fascination with the St Kilda group of islands, having first heard of them during a visit to Shetland in 1988, and having also read Tom Steel's seminal work The Life and Death of St Kilda several times, so when I saw the paperback edition of this book on sale in Waterstones in late 2011, had to buy a copy.

I was not disappointed, as the story fascinated right from the first page. Both Lizzie and Neil are based on real people who actually did exist, and although much has been written about the historial Neil, little is known of his wife. This book aims to redress that imbalance, and like other books that I read that year (2011), is written much more from the female perspective.

I suppose this is what I liked about the story - the idea of this strong woman who supports her man by sailing almost to the other side of the world to live among illiterate farmers whose language she cannot even understand. During her time on the island Lizzie loses several children, and as her husband becomes more and more fervent in his faith, she feels herself gradually losing him too.

This book, although hypothetical and based only loosely on fact is still very well researched. The descriptions of the St Kildan landscape and way of life really bring the story to life, adding much more depth to what could otherwise have been a much less ordinary tale.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A well-researched, well written story about the minister for the island of St Kilda.

At times exploring his thinking, at others his wife's, it is sensitive and beautifully put together, as the minister is ground down by events and his own experiences.

A gentle but incisive look at the lives of the people on the island as it became increasingly obvious that inhabitation there was unsustainable.

The story is based, in large part, on the diaries of the minister, as well as the historical record and related diaries. This gives a depth and texture to what would otherwise have been purely fictional.

This is a gentle and fascinating book.
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