Island of Wings: Book summary and reviews of Island of Wings by Karin Altenberg

Island of Wings

A Novel

by Karin Altenberg

Island of Wings by Karin Altenberg
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  • Published in USA  Dec 2011
    320 pages
    Genre: Novels

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Book Summary

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.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. Drawing on historically accurate roots, including real-life figures Neil and Lizzie MacKenzie, Altenberg creates a mesmerizing tapestry that will surely linger in the reader's mind." - Booklist

"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." - Publishers Weekly

"Complex characters and historical events that impact the lives of the islanders provide much to ponder and discuss. A fine book club candidate." - Library Journal

"In this winning debut, Altenberg, a trained archaeologist, brings a subtle voice to this odd bit of history, in which faith and marriage are no match for isolation." - Kirkus Reviews

"While sticking closely to contemporary sources, Altenberg has found a powerful storyline, limpid prose style and moral force that are all her own." - Daily Mail (UK)

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Diane S.

Island of Wings by Karin Altenberg
I had to give this book the highest rating because it is not very often one finds a writer who can paint pictures and emotions with words. In taking the real life minister Neal and his wife Lizzie and creating a fictionalized account of their lives on St. Kilda in the 1830's Altenberg has given the reader a novel that is historically interesting and emotionally rich. The isolation as well as the beautiful setting is flawlessly described so that the reader feels that they are actually on these islands as this story enfolds. Wonderful book! ARC provided by Net Galley.

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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.

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