WINNER OF A JERWOOD FICTION UNCOVERED AWARD, 2015
One warm June morning, Maggie Wichelo, a lonely young woman, arrives at the comfortable Oxford house in which she works as a nanny. Everything appears normal. Her glamorous employer, Nula, who also happens to be her cousin, is so tired that she goes back straight back to bed. Samuel, the two year old boy she looks after, is pleased to see Maggie and can’t wait to start crashing his diggers into the skirting board. Dedicated, efficient, and fiercely protective of Samuel, Maggie considers herself an excellent nanny, and Nula and her over-confident husband Greg have had few complaints about her work.
But this is the morning on which Maggie will abduct Samuel, loading him into a hired car, and driving him to a remote boathouse on the island where she spent her teenage years: Anglesey, known to the locals as Mam Cymru, or the Mother of Wales.
For Maggie, everything goes back to the island. This is the beautiful, menacing and mysterious place where she spent the summer, aged fifteen, watching her brother Joe fall in love, her parents’ relationship disintegrate, and her uncle Ralph paint the glorious Menai Strait. The island is where Maggie’s life fell apart, and it is where she will attempt, in her own way, to put it back together again.
Mother Island is a tense and disturbing novel about love, loss and what it means to be a mother.
There’s little more engrossing than a top-notch psychological thriller. Bethan Roberts’s latest novel doesn’t disappoint – it’s satisfyingly creepy and stimulates that delicious paradox: goose-pimples in summer.
A thoughtful yet page-turning domestic thriller. What makes Mother Island stand out from the crowd, though, is the compassion the author shows for her central characters…When Sam and Maggie go missing, the tension ratchets up a notch or three, and Roberts judges the whole thing with great pecision as well as plenty of humanity. A thoroughly cracking read.
The immediate suspense is only the top layer of an intricate family story…Roberts writes fantastically well about motherhood and the magical, other-wordly atmosphere of Anglesey.
The latest novel to look seriously at the condition of modern motherhood…it’s particularly good on the multiple tiny stories of hurt and resentments that can make up a family history.
Roberts’ forensic dissection of family life is almost painful to read at times…This is not a book to start reading late in the evening because once the first page is turned it is hard to put this gripping tale down.
The tension in this cleverly constructed novel comes not so much from the skillful unravelling of events as from the forensic dissection of its characters’ inner worlds and relationships. Uncomfortable and gripping in equal measures.