Subtle narrative

By Jennifer Johnston, Headline Review, £ 7.99

Polly is a young Irish girl growing up during the Second World War. After her father is killed in action she spends much of her time at her grandparent’s home, where she becomes close to her father’s younger brother, Sam. But when he falls out with the family and leaves Ireland to become a Communist revolutionary in Cuba, Polly’s loyalties are torn. Jennifer Johnston’s novella is subtle and elegantly told.

The narrative meanders and there is little incident, but the descriptions of Polly’s childhood on the Galway coast are so powerful – "the sea, smooth as silk, came and went in huge, looping movements over corrugated sand" – that you have to keep reminding yourself that this is a work of fiction, and not a vividly recalled memoir. — The Independent