Book Club: The Enchanted Island

Author: Ellie O’Neill
ISBN: 9781925030013
RRP: $29.99

Ellie O’Neill is back with her second modern Irish folktale and I loved it.

Maeve O’Brien is an apprentice lawyer in the independent Dublin legal firm Holmes and Friedman, she is 27 and quite the modern lass. Maeve is technologically obsessed and just as obsessed with appearances.

Life is all a little crumbly for Maeve with rumoured redundancies at work and the dust not yet settled from the biggest fight she’s ever had with her bestie, a fight that leaves her living back home with Mam.

Maeve’s boss Harry Holmes has a special job he needs done and he selects Maeve for her tenacity, and her single status that leaves her able to set off on travel commitments at the drop of a hat. Maeve isn’t given much information, just that she needs to collect the signature of a man on documents for the sale of land to build a bridge.

The bridge build is enough to excite Maeve as it reminds her of a time that she worked building sites and construction during college, the tomboy turned in her steel caps and swapped them for stilettos in her final year of college.

Since switching her steel caps for stilettos she has also found an unhealthy obsession with selfies, sometimes taking up to half an hour to capture the perfect shot (ugh who has time for that) and religiously following her likes creeping up and her social life on social media. At 27 she’s obsessed with her appearance, botox being the backbone of her bestie brawl, and drowning in debt.

Escaping Dublin couldn’t come at a better time. This little job could be the cement building block for her career and how hard could it be to get an old man’s signature.

Hy Brasil is almost a completely new world for Maeve, there are no cars, no traffic lights, no fast food and very little in the way of a social life. The best thing that can be said about her island accommodations is that they are dry. High fashion, high maintenance Maeve is being put up in a tin caravan in the middle of a muddy field, and she’s pretty sure she’s not going to like it.

the enchanted island

The Enchanted Island takes a, possibly slightly exaggerated, look at the quest for beauty and the perfect appearance, but at what cost. We see how Maeve has lost herself behind the online shopping, credit card debt, botox, designer clothes and quest for the perfect selfie. In Dublin the only time she could be seen naturally was in the dead of night. In Hy Brasil the need to primp and preen seems a little shallow, who will appreciate it – surely not the sheep.

Maeve soon discovers that there’s more to Hy Brasil than meets the eye. The simple signature is anything but, the wind howls like a banshee and the older generation are fit but far from friendly. No-one seems willing to talk about the strangeness but Maeve finds herself more and more intrigued.

Irish folklore is deftly woven into a modern tale of progress and romance. Hy Brasil is an island steeped in history, centuries of history, and the elder islanders have been a part of that history for generations.

The Enchanted Island is an authentic and enjoyable follow-up to O’Neill’s stellar debut Reluctantly Charmed. I was invested in Maeve’s journey and wanted to see where this trip would take her. The history of the island was engaging and I was always wanting to get to the bottom of the mystery, and wondering if Maeve would ever get all of the answers.

There is a strong sense of romance on The Enchanted Island, and a few different romances to follow. Maeve’s romance builds slowly until it becomes encompassing, it was believably written and drew you in until you had to know how she was going to cope because this was all so new for her.

An interesting meld of old world Irish folklore and the modern world, with progress trying to push its way in and upset the balance. It really is quite a reflection on a lot of what is happening across the world today. Definitely worth the read and I will be interested to hear what our readers have to say.

A little bit mystery, a little bit suspense, a little bit folklore and a little bit romance makes for a massive story steeped in history at the same time as modern technology.

30 of our lucky readers will also be reading The Enchanted Island so please be aware there may be spoilers in the comments below.

The Enchanted Island is book #63 for The Australian Women Writer’s Challenge 2015.

Ellie O’Neill can be found on Facebook, Twitter and her Website.

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