Review – On Midnight Beach by Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick

Review - On Midnight Beach by Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick

This extraordinary young adult novel has been shortlisted for the CILIP Carnegie Award 2021.

The summer of 1976 was a summer different to any other. The sun sat in the sky turning each day into long, hot, sweltering ones, the like of which the small Donegal village of Carrig Cove had never seen. This quiet seaside town seemed set to linger on the fringes of the country waiting for relief, caught in both the searing heat and dwindling trade. And then, a dolphin appears in Ross Bay and soon, visitors flock to the town in hopes of catching a glimpse of the wild visitor and Carrig Cove sees an economic boon. Emer Monoghan sneaks away to the beach to spend each night away from the crowds, swimming with the dolphin…and falling in love with the one boy she knows she should not go near; Dog Cullen.

Ever since she was a young child, Emer has known Dog Cullen is trouble. But Emer no longer cares what those in the small village may think. Nor does she care if the posh, neighbouring town is raging about the change in fortune ‘dolphin fever’ has brought to Emers’ village. All the Emer cares about is the beach at midnight, the dolphin and Dog. But as the temperature continues to rise, the long-standing rivalry reaches the highest possible level and explodes one fateful night with tragic consequences…for everyone.

This story unfolds with such a self-assured pace that the reader experiences every moment completely. The landscape, the people, the circumstances are painted with clear, pinpoint accuracy of language that creates not so much a book, as an experience. You believe and feel on an almost physical level that you are right there, part of the story. And what a story it is! The beautiful wildness and ensuing events mirror the ‘growing-up’ in a vision of exacting real-time, along with all the trepidation, self-realisation, loss of innocence and the grief that comes with seeing life in a new, not at all comfortable way. For adult readers, it will take you back to that time in your own life; for young adults, it gives a feeling of connection…you are not alone in this.

The story has all the power, all the joy and all the pain of that moment in time. This is accentuated when you understand that what Fitzpatrick has given us is a retelling of the pivotal and powerful Irish legend; the Táin Bo Cuailnge. It adds an understanding of the relevance and importance of myth…of why we still tell them…and how these ancient stories are what makes us human. Wonderful characterisation; incredible, gripping plot and writing that transfixes the reader; compelling, stirring and beautiful. I loved every single page.

You can pick up your copy of this incredible novel here

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