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On the Connemara coast, Kitty Conneely sees the girl in her ways of seeing things behind her eyes and knows she is needed.
She visits the Cursing Stones, and ritually turns them in her quest to save this girl. In London, Em Smith, foundling and companion to Eliza Waterland, experiences strange perceptions of behaviour with people dead in the room and knowing a need to escape.
It is 1766 and Daley moves both of these characters through well plotted intense experiences towards their inevitable meeting.
Em has an escape in a coach described in crisp prose of sensory movement and Em's own emotions; high level needs to remain unseen and continuing fears.
She moves from one exciting and challenging episode to another- the coach ride, the attempt to find a ship to France while staying hidden as several clues suggest she is being followed and a final voyage with Connla McDonagh to shipwreck on Connemara.
Kitty keeps sensing the progress of danger to Em and stays alert to her inevitable arrival on her coast.
All this action is given an astute blend of crisp and lyrical description that provides insight into context and keeps the pace of movement propelling.
It highlights the difficulties of status, sufficient income, access to resources, in both societies, Irish and aspiring merchant English.
The final meeting of both Kitty and Em is portrayed as inevitable, but linked in a way that helps both resolve presenting dilemmas of identity and history. It is a satisfying resolution heightened by the unexpected presence of others.
This is a novel that moves through human dilemmas with insight, perceptive descriptions and pace that maintain interest.
- Willie Campbell is a Dunedin educator.