Oh my goodness, how I loved this book!
The Island Girls is the story of Emer and Susannah. Emer is a young Irish nurse who has very recently lost her sister and, desperate to try to move away from her memories, takes a job looking after elderly Susannah on the island of Vinalhaven, an island in the Atlantic off the coast of Maine. Susannah also lost a sister in tragic circumstances years before and despite having graduated from Harvard, came home to the island and has stayed there ever since. Through Susannah’s story in the past and her sister Kate’s letters which Emer finds hidden in a quilt, we come to find out just what led to that decision all those years ago.
I loved the characters of both Emer and Susannah and the way that Noelle Harrison depicted their relationships with their sisters. She shows that the bonds between both sets of sisters were strong and yet also conveys that at times there were strains. I don’t want to give anything away of course so will just say that both Emer and Susannah experienced some incredibly difficult situations and had what must have been impossible decisions to make. I have to admit a sneaking preference for Susannah’s story, particularly in the 1950s when she was at Harvard. As the author has said, the women at Harvard at the time were rather like islands themselves, surrounded by a sea of men. I particularly enjoyed the way that Susannah’s relationship was depicted sensitively and so movingly.
The setting of the island was perfectly described too and was a wonderful backdrop to the story. As with many stories set on islands, although it is clearly a beautiful place, there is a sense of claustrophobia and being trapped, particularly for Susannah.
The Island Girls is a gorgeous, beautifully written, compelling story of love, loss and hope. I was completely absorbed in the stories of Emer and Susannah and their sisters when reading and somewhat bereft to leave them behind. This is a story which really touched me and I will remember the characters for a long time. If I tell you that I have added it to my Top Reads list for 2020, you will know how much I loved it. Please buy it, you won’t be disappointed!
My thanks to Sarah at Bookouture for having me as part of the tour and for my review copy of the book via Netgalley. The Island Girls is available now in ebook and paperback formats. At the time of writing, it’s only 99p for Kindle which is an absolute bargain for such a wonderful book. Buying links are below.
Apple Books: https://apple.co/2KbNElX
Google Play: https://bit.ly/3ctnpmW
From the back of the book
I guess our life on the island was one which never fit you right. I like to imagine you some days when I look out the window across the harbour, all those miles of sea and land between us. But, sister, we are always connected.
When young nurse Emer loses her beloved sister, she is haunted by grief and desperate to escape her memories. Taking a job in Vinalhaven, a rocky outpost in the wild Atlantic, feels like the refuge she so badly needs.
Her patient, Susannah, has lived in isolation for many years, since the tragic death of her sister Kate caused her to withdraw from island life. However, when Emer discovers a bundle of letters in a rainbow quilt in her bedroom and shares the story of her own loss, Susannah opens up. She begins to tell the story of Kate’s brutal and secret past, and her marriage to a man with a heart as cold as the ocean.
But when Emer starts asking locals about Kate, the island air sizzles with hostility. There are people who would rather that Susannah kept quiet, who have no qualms about threatening Emer. But despite the warnings to stay away, Emer is determined to find out what really happened the night Kate died – and the final secret that is keeping Susannah a prisoner to the past.
An unputdownable and unforgettable story of impossible choices and two sisters who would do anything for one another. Set on a bewitching sea-scented island, The Island Girls will burrow into your heart. Perfect for fans of Lisa Wingate, Anita Shreve and The Light Between Oceans.
About the Author
Noelle Harrison is the Irish author of nine novels and five plays and has been translated into over 13 different languages. Her short stories have been published in Lines of Vision, Irish Writing on Irish Art, & Gutter Magazine of New Scottish Writing. In 2016, Noelle co-founded Aurora Writers’ Retreats building on 20 years’ experience of teaching creative writing in Ireland, Scotland, Norway and England.