Jackie Green recently picked up a book called The Hollow Sea to study its gorgeous gold lettering and turquoise blue cover that seemed to shimmer with an almost hypnotic life of its own. Turns out that Annie Kirby’s story telling does exactly the same. She takes heartbreak and loss, weaves it around magical, mystical beings, stirs in some bitter real life dilemmas and blends them seamlessly into a haunting tale. The Hollow Sea is as beautiful on the inside as it is on the outside.
After several years of trying to become a mother, Scottie has made the painful decision to leave her home and husband in search of a fresh start. Upon her arrival on St Hia, a remote North Atlantic archipelago, the islanders warn her against asking questions about Thordis – but Scottie can’t resist the mystery of what happened to the woman whose life became a legend. In doing so she eventually discovers herself.
I was hooked from the first few pages and although the characters dance backwards and forwards in time, the clarity and tone of the writing keeps you on track. Annie teases the reader, revealing half-truths and whispered memories like the sea drawing back from wet sand. The Hollow Sea is a book about mothers, all mothers, with and without children. It’s brutally honest, a story of scars and hope. A novel of pain and yearning, of love and cruelty but above all about a woman discovering her true self. Of the woman she was, has been and can be.
For such a spiritual book it deals with hard issues: infertility, death and abuse. But it also manages to do so through real understanding of the human condition and with such a light touch that the reader sees more than just the physical problems. It shines a light on the strength and sheer survival abilities of women in particular.
The different tones and temperaments of the characters are as layered as the sea that courses through this story. Annie makes you feel the salty brine on your skin, taste the spray on your lips and feel the loneliness of the misunderstood.
Emotional themes and strange tales echo from its pages ensuring the images stay with you long after the pages have turned. It’s a story that is both ancient and modern, like the sea, it has mystery, depth and beauty. In fact not hollow at all.
Image re-used by permission of Annie Kirby and her publisher.