Flicking through The Bookseller’s Spring Children’s buying guide, I was astonished to find The Island at the End of Everything on the 10 Titles Not to Miss page.
Here’s what it says:
‘The Girl of Ink & Stars is one of 2016’s top-selling debuts, and Hargrave’s second book establishes her as a major new talent in children’s fiction. Set on a remote island for people with leprosy, this is mesmerising storytelling.’
– Fiona Noble, The Bookseller‘s 10 Titles Not to Miss
Not ashamed to say I full-on forgot I was holding my tea, did a little dance, and dropped it all over my copy. So if anyone has a spare…
A few days ago the wonderful Abi Elphinstone posted this on Twitter:
So much about this rang true, though I am a fair few steps behind Abi in this process. It’s sometimes hard to focus on what really matters: writing. And why does the writing matter? Because I want to tell stories. I write for children because that’s when I became a reader – I think there are few things more important than literacy, and books can be a formative part of growing up (they were for me!) So when I saw this review on Goodreads, I realised that this is why I wrote THE GIRL OF INK AND STARS.
This temporarily salved the worry about my social media presence, about prize lists or book sales. This cancels out all the people asking when I’m going to write a ‘proper’ book, or why I write for children when I could be telling grown up stories. I want to write an ‘adult’ book someday, but it certainly won’t be any more ‘proper’ than my books for children. Stories, and the telling of them, are important no matter who they’re for – and reviews like this keep me focussed on that, and keep me writing them.
Millwood Hargrave’s poetry was a real strength of the performance, the writing containing an awareness of its literary context, acknowledging and playing on this deftly, never labouring the point. The voice of the poems (mostly Eurydice, with some choral poems) had a directness that at points was striking and beautiful. She shortened the protagonists’ names to ‘o’ and ‘e’, turning Orpheus and Eurydice into modern shorthand, ciphers for sound even, as highlighted vowels that resounded through the poems.
The most memorable poem was ‘Host’, in which swans nest beneath Eurydice’s scalp, leaving her ‘brain full of eggs’. The images stuck afterwards, and the vividness of natural imagery brought back Ovid’s Metamorphoses, to the point where I confused one with the other until I looked them up.
In Book XI, Ovid similarly describes nature’s relationship with the mythical characters, here in grief:
“The trees that often gathered to your song, shedding their leaves, mourned you with bared crowns” (A. S. Kline’s translation)
‘Like light,/it is only at a distance/this place holds any shape’
from the poem Sapling seems to shine with the ‘light’ motifs in the paintings, positing the idea of the particular clarity the myth takes on from the viewpoint of today, so distant from its origin.
Full review here: