Storm Over Innish
Dorothy Clewes (1907-2003) was an English children’s writer, who also wrote some fiction for adults. This novel is aimed at a teenage audience, and focuses on Letty, a teenage girl who lives on a remote island with her parents off the west of Ireland. It is a significant example of young adult fiction set partly in Ireland at a time when the genre was not well-established in the country. The book focuses on a family unit that has been shaken by various trials, including the death of Letty’s brother Charlie, who drowned while trying to avoid going back to school on the mainland. This traumatic event is gradually revealed through flashbacks, and this part of the family’s history is further explored with the mysterious arrival of a boy who cannot remember his story in a boat with the inscription ‘Finn McCool, Sligo’. From the outset, Letty associates this boy with her dead brother Charlie, and much of the rest of the plot is driven by Letty’s efforts to find out who ‘Finn’ is and why he was coming to the island. In the course of this narrative action, the broader socio-political context is established and the Troubles in Northern Ireland are sketched. When appealing for information about Finn in a local newspaper, Letty notices an article about the search for a man wanted in connection with a discovery of ammunition and who was ‘suspected of helping the terrorists’ (47-8). ‘Finn’ is temporarily suspected of this crime by Inspector Harley, who comes to the island to follow up on Finn’s identity. However, it transpires that Harley himself has been involved in smuggling weapons. In a dramatic scene where ‘Finn’ and Letty discover hidden guns in a secret cave on the island, Harley tries to swoop on their boat from his helicopter, but his helicopter crashes into the sea and Harley dies. The broken family reforms again around Finn, who succeeds in connecting with Letty’s mother and father individually, allowing them to rebuild their relationship. The narrative uses art and literature as a means of exploring and giving depth to character. Finn’s identity is explored through his remembrance of the importance of Irish artist Paul Henry, and his eventual realisation that he was coming to the island to visit the place where his grandfather, a writer, used to live. Another significant feature of the book is its intertextual references, which include Wuthering Heights, the works of Beatrix Potter, Robinson Crusoe and and Alice in Wonderland.
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Gender, Ireland, Myth and Legend, Northern Ireland, The Troubles, Sligo, London, England, Island, Adolescence, Young Adult Fiction, Art, Intertextual References, Narrative Voice and Structure
Juvenile Literature Collection - CICE