The Oystercatcher Girl is a slow, gently-paced and beautifully written novel, with strong poetic bones. Yet there is suspense there, because it’s not clear what has happened to draw Christine back to Orkney or how and why Robbie, her teenage sweetheart, died, leaving her to look after his widow and child. Christine’s own family is close to dysfunctional, and she is suspicious of old acquaintances, so this is never a comfortable read, with a growing threat in the air which comes into its own in the last few chapters. But the ending is satisfying, and the images of the setting will linger in my mind for a long time.
The edition I read also has useful notes and questions for book groups at the back, a very practical addition as I’m sure many book groups would find this book meat for some deep discussions.
Gabrielle Barnby works in a variety of genres including short stories, poetry and children’s fiction. She lives with her husband and four children in Orkney, Scotland, and I had the pleasure of meeting her at the Stromness Writers' Group last week! Gabrielle’s short stories and book reviews have been published in Northwords Now and The Stinging Fly. Various pieces of her poetry and prose are available in local anthologies including Waiting for The Tide, Come Sit at Our Table and Kirkwall Visions, Kirkwall Voices. Gabrielle also edits monthly writing pages in Living Orkney magazine and runs local writing workshops. She has been commissioned to compose and perform poems at local anniversaries and events and last year performed in the Orkney Storytelling festival. In 2015 her first collection of short stories The House With The Lilac Shutters was published by ThunderPoint. In the same year she won The George Mackay Brown Short Story competition. More information about her work and occasional pieces of flash fiction can be found at www.gabriellebarnby.com. She is also on facebook and twitter @GabrielleBarnby.