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Review: The Gloaming - Kirsty Logan

Bijgewerkt: 22 okt 2018


Genre: Literary Fiction, Magical Realism Published: Harvill Secker, April 2018 My rating: 5/5 stars All-time-favourite

"We can't carry our whole lives with us everywhere we go. Memories have weight, and no one can lift them all at ones. We have to leave some of them behind."

Often, I love books with my head. I love the way they’re written, the stories they tell, the words they chose. Sometimes these books linger like ghosts in the back of my mind, and slowly creep their way down into my heart, to claim their place as all-time favorites. Rarely, I love books directly with my heart. Those are the ones that skip the ghosting-step, materialize directly into your soul and become instant favourites. One of those rare occurrences was The Gloaming… '

Set on an island where magic is more than the subject of folklore, we follow an unorthodox family of five in the wake of a tragedy that changed their lives forever. Signe (“The Bird”), a ballerina, split between grace and strength, freedom and responsibility. Her husband Peter, a boxer; body is strong as ever, but his mind falling apart. Their children: Islay (“the Beauty”), Mara (“the Changeling”) and Bee, the golden boy, whom small presence is with them everywhere they go. And then there is Pearl (the Selkie), Mara’s lover, who carries a past of her own. All of them are masterfully written, and feel so complete, that you forget they only exist on page. I especially adored Signe, whom life seems to be about balancing extremes. Frailty and strength, freedom and surrender, love and grief… the Black Swan and the White… Mara was probably a close second. Not in the sense that I adored her as much, but in the sense that she was such a well crafted character. She is damaged by her past in the most literal way. Her relationship with Pearl mimics her relationship with the sea; she fears it, yet she yearns for it, not knowing whether it’s healing her, or damaging her even more.

Kirsty Logan, Mara and I share this love, fascination, and simultaneous fearful awe for the ocean. This love is definitely reflected in this novel as well, as the sea is arguably a seventh main character in itself. Unpredictable, unforgiving, yet soothing and calling to us all like a siren. Like life, it takes what it wants, only what it wants, and you never know what if it’ll ever give it back. It’s in the names of our main characters, which all carry meaning in themselves, but you’ll have to read the book to understand them. It’s in the metaphors, the themes, the chapter titles and the entire atmosphere, that is vivid enough to make you taste the salt on your lips. (Or maybe they were just my own tears: I wouldn’t rule that out completely) This was quite honestly one of the most emotion-packed, and probably most personal books I read in a long time. I cannot fathom how much Kirsty Logan managed to (effectively!) pack in just over 300 pages. Grief, family, a type of longing for home that I can’t quite describe*, the terrifying beauty of life itself and learning to live/love after loss again… There is so much more in here, but I can only recommend you read the book yourself, to see what you find.


*there is a beautiful Welsh word that describes this feeling, that doesn’t really translate too well. I realize it would have been more fitting if it were a Scottish word, like the chapter titles of this novel, but this will have to do. “Hiraeth”: a bittersweet homesickness for a home you can’t return to, or a place that never was. It’s a beautiful word, a feeling very familiar, and despite the fact that its Welsh, not Scottish, I feel it would have been right at home in this novel.


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