The Colony by Audrey Magee

A second review of a book that has been involved in the Booker Prize, immediately after a Booker Prize winning book – I am really not sure who I am?

‘The Colony’ by Audrey Magee is the March book club pick for ‘The Tasting Notes Book Club’ and, if I am honest, judging the book by its cover, this may not have been a book that I would read. However, again, I was proved wrong by that prejudging – this book was fascinating.

This book is an absolutely fascinating study of a life on a small island just off the coast of Ireland. An island of very few inhabitants, who are still speaking the Irish language and have kept themselves fairly separated from life on the mainland. Their news coming from the radio and those that bring supplies to the island. An isolated life – that is a life some are happy to accept but that the younger inhabitants have a desire to possibly pull away from, especially after the arrival of Mr Lloyd, the artist, who wants to paint the cliffs. As well as this, they are visited by Mr Masson, who believes he comes to save their language and their identity – but is he also just trampling all over what they know, and leaving a mark that can never be removed? What becomes clear is that the island is certainly not big enough for everyone.

The microcosm of life on the island, for me, reflected life on the mainland of Ireland. The story being punctuated by news reports of the Troubles reflected the idea of the risk of the destruction of life on the island. Especially, the idea of who is to blame for the conflicts and the struggles that are being experienced.

I may not have interpreted this book as others may do, but that is also the joy of reading: a shared experience when you read together, but an individual experience when you consider what the words mean to you.

For a slow-paced book, I was continually looking for time to read it and find out more about what was going to happen. And, although it may not feel that there is a large amount of action in this book, it is an interesting study of culture, heritage, people and relationships – and how the balance of these can be so easily disrupted, sending shockwaves far and wide.