BookBrowse Reviews Migrations by Charlotte McConaghy

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A Novel

by Charlotte McConaghy

Migrations by Charlotte McConaghy X
Migrations by Charlotte McConaghy
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  • First Published:
    Aug 2020, 272 pages
    Jul 2021, 288 pages


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A complex, ambitious and captivating novel that considers troubling environmental destruction alongside poignant self-reckoning.

Migrations, Australian author Charlotte McConaghy's literary fiction debut, earned a notably high average rating of 4.8 out of 5 stars from our 41 First Impressions reviewers.

What the book is about:

Written with profound insight, Migrations tells the story of Franny Stone's quest to follow the endangered Arctic tern migration from Greenland to the Weddell Sea near the Antarctic Peninsula (Marilyn G). Migrations is a compelling story of the possible future of wildlife extinction. As Franny follows the last of the Arctic terns during their migration we are drawn into her past story and yet apprehensive of her current journey (Carol F).

Readers found McConaghy's novel impressively ambitious in its variety of themes and subjects,

The author describes a future we do not want. But her bleak vision is only one element of this engrossing story. The novel is also a warm combination of a love story, a perilous journey, a dark back story that is only gradually revealed, echoes of classics (Moby Dick, Jules Verne and Hans Christian Andersen immediately come to mind, along with tales of orphans) and mesmerizing nature writing... Just as Flight Behavior changes the way its readers look at and think about butterflies, and The Overstory does that for trees, so does Migrations for birds (Deborah W). This book was a delicious "trail" of imagery, feelings, times and locations. It was like unwrapping a present (Linda V).

...and it helped some out of a reading slump.

In this time of coronavirus isolation, reading would seem the perfect antidote to our boredom and worries. And yet I've found myself lacking the concentration required as I tried various books on my "to read" pile. Until, that is, I came to Migrations by Charlotte McConaghy (Nanette C). This book captured me! So refreshing in a time of fear and uncertainty (Mary O). It has been awhile since I read a book that thoroughly captured me, but with Migrations I found that delight in reading again (Viqui G). What a good read. At first I thought it would be a little bit depressing for these days: Mass extinction, climate disruption, the end of the wild. But no, not at all! The story of Franny and her search for the last of the Arctic terns was engrossing (Gary R).

A few reviewers had difficulty connecting with the character of Franny,

I did not connect with Franny, the narrator, and thought she was unreliable (Jane C). Even though McConaghy's novel is a page turner that kept me reading too late many nights, I found myself not liking Franny at all. I feel she is supposed to be the sympathetic victim we are to root for and fall in love with, but I'm not sold (Melissa S).

...but many declared a special fondness for the book,

This novel is one of the better books that I've read in a long time; it even may be a look into our environmental future. I'm hoping Migrations will receive many honors. It is a special book (Suzanne G). I will carry this book with me a long time. I will reread it more slowly and deliberately (Carole R). I imagine in years to come I will remember Migrations as one of my most favorite books (Betty B).

...and felt it touched on important topics for discussion in current times.

I read this while "sheltering in place" during the coronavirus outbreak. It's too late to stop the global spread of the virus; but hopefully it's not too late to have a brighter future for our planet than the one Migrations paints. I have lots of time now, so I'll be thinking about what I can do about global warming, and I'll be thinking about Franny — what she was passionate about, where she ended up and how her tale can empower us. Book groups will find much to discuss here (Deborah W).

This review was originally published in The BookBrowse Review in September 2020, and has been updated for the July 2021 edition. Click here to go to this issue.

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Beyond the Book:
  The Arctic Tern

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