Synopses & Reviews
A dazzling debut novel of love and loss, faith and atonement, on an untamed nineteenth-century Scottish island.
Exquisitely written and profoundly moving, Island of Wings is a richly imagined novel about two people struggling to keep their love, and their family, alive in a place of extreme hardship and unearthly beauty. Everything lies ahead for Lizzie and Neil McKenzie when they arrive at the St. Kilda islands in July of 1830. Neil is to become the minister to the small community of islanders, and Lizzie-bright, beautiful, and devoted-is pregnant with their first child. As the two adjust to life at the edge of civilization, where the natives live in squalor and babies perish mysteriously, their marriage-and their sanity-are soon threatened.
"Swedish-born archeologist Altenberg imagines the internal struggles of two historical figures in her debut. In the summer of 1830, Rev. Neil MacKenzie and his wife, Lizzie, set sail for the island of St. Kilda. The couple is young and hopeful: Lizzie, pregnant and adoring her new husband; Neil, deeply spiritual and confident in his mission. Though St. Kilda is off the coast of Scotland, the MacKenzies step into a world completely foreign. The Gaelic-speaking natives live in filth and squalor, yet in perfect harmony with one another. Neil's need to convert the idyllic natives becomes highly ironic, and he sees in Lizzie's unfortunate miscarriage a grave trespass. As Lizzie battles loneliness and despair, Neil throws himself into converting the islanders (more for himself than for them), and the novel darkens. Altenberg's book is deeply entrenched in historical detail, vivid in its descriptions of geography, and more successful as anthropological history than novel. A late passage, however, creates a moving portrait of the couple greatly changed by their hardships. Incorporating the politics of the creation of the Free Church out of the Church of Scotland, the story shows the limits of love and devotion in people and in faith. Agent: Rogers, Coleridge & White." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Karin Altenberg is senior advisor to the Swedish National Heritage Board and is a fellow of the Linnean Society. She is currently at work on her second novel. She lives in London.