Haven by Emma Donoghue

Medieval Ireland: Following a vision he sees in a dream, Artt, a pious monk, leaves behind the world to seek out an island where he will build a monastery. He takes with him a young monk and an older one. Soon the isolation and Artt’s blindness to survival skills starts to create uneasiness in the three.

Emma Donoghue has written many well received novels, and some have been adapted into films, perhaps her most well known being Room. She has actually won an Academy Award for her adaptation of one of her books. She writes succinctly about her subjects, creating a sense of place and mood, and going deeply in to the characters, without creating an overlong story. This book is no exception. We get a sense of each of the three very clearly, and the life in the monastery and the time period, and it feels well researched and vibrant.

It’s not a long book and if it intrigues you, definitely check it out. I like medieval/middle ages stories. It’s such an interesting time period. I don’t have that much interest in the religious and monastic life and didn’t grow up in a religious household, which meant that this book was slightly dull to me. Artt seems like all religious fanatics or cult leaders, and he annoyed me. I liked the other two characters, but sometimes their blind following, while in line with their social and cultural conditioning, was frustrating. It makes historical sense and it’s well written, but it wasn’t fun for me to spend time with, at times.

The ending is a little odd and abrupt. Something about a character is revealed, which as you read you will probably see coming, which brings things to a head, but it left me wondering. What was this book trying to say? Was it making a point about blind obedience? About the Catholic religion in Ireland? About climate change? Or was it just a little historical snapshot of life? I think it may have been the last one. It’s not bad, I think it just didn’t show me anything I hadn’t already seen elsewhere. But I think it will resonate with other people. I did like that the author was inspired by hearing about Skellig Michael and the monks who retreated from life and lived there at different times. Due to over-tourism and climate change, the location will probably soon be no more.

Read It If: you find the premise intriguing, check it out. Emma Donoghue is a really good writer. Fans should be pleased with her latest.

Thank you to Harper Collins Canada for the ARC of this book for review.

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