SHORTLISTED FOR THE ORWELL PRIZE
He handed the easel to the boatman, reaching down the pier wall towards the sea.
Mr Lloyd has decided to travel to the island by boat without engine - the authentic experience.
Unbeknownst to him, Mr Masson will also soon be arriving for the summer. Both will strive to encapsulate the truth of this place - one in his paintings, the other by capturing its speech, the language he hopes to preserve.
But the people who live on this rock - three miles long and half-a-mile wide - have their own views on what is being recorded, what is being taken and what is given in return. Soft summer days pass, and the islanders are forced to question what they value and what they desire. As the autumn beckons, and the visitors head home, there will be a reckoning.
Irish journalist and novelist Magee (The Undertaking) returns with the lyrical and trenchant story of an English landscape painter who visits a small Irish island during the Troubles. It's the summer of 1979, and an artist known only as Mr. Lloyd leaves London for a rented cottage on the island. Soon after, Jean-Pierre Masson, a French linguist, arrives to study Gaelic, a language he calls "ancient and beautiful" and wants to keep alive. From the beginning, the two clash, sniping at one another and arguing over whose work is more important. Meanwhile, the locals, wary of their guests' colonial prejudices, have their own ideas of what's worth cherishing. James Gillan, 15, wants nothing to do with a life of fishing and hopes to be an artist. Lloyd, struck by the boy's natural talent, promises him a life of fame back in London. Complications ensue after Lloyd falls in love with James's widowed mother, Mair ad. Throughout, Magee weaves in bulletin-like vignettes of sectarian violence, such as an IRA bombing in South Armagh, which stand in stark contrast to the guests' fantasies of an untouched world. Even more enriching is Magee's depiction of James, who critiques Lloyd's mediocre efforts in internal monologues ("You're not understanding the light at all... it buries underneath, diving between the waves as a bird might, lighting the water from below as well as above"). It's a delicate balance, and one the author pulls off brilliantly.