Island of Horses (cover) Eilís Dillon
The Island of Horses

No one ever went to the Island of Horses. It was said to be unlucky, and when there was a storm the island shone with a strange light and the Inishrone people used to say that the wild Spanish horses were trying to land there; Pat's grandmother used to tell tales about a long silver strand and a hidden valley, and she said the harebells were bluer there and the sea-pinks brighter than anywhere else. So was it any wonder that two bold boys, having adventure in them, should want to explore it? At least, said Pat, they might find eels there. They did; and they found other things too: horses - and not all wild ones.
THE ISLAND OF HORSES was chosen in The Sunday Times as one of "The 99 Best Books for Children".


"A thumping good read." (The Irish Press)

"A very good story about two boys who set out to explore a deserted island off the Connemara coast, and about the adventures that follow. All are well within the bounds of probability ... The people are real, the Irish background rings true, and there is a hard, spare poetry in the telling of the story." (The Guardian)

"Has everything: good characterization, atmosphere, pace, style." (The Library Journal)

"An exciting tale by a fine writer." (J.H. Laker, Yarmouth Mercury)

"Eilís Dillon brings an original and outstanding gift to her storytelling." (British Weekly)

You can read more reviews
after this extract from the opening pages ....

1. We go to the Island of Horses

Whenever I think of the Island of Horses now, I remember it as it looked from the boat on the first day that I landed there. All my life until then I had seen it as a darker blue curve on the edge of the blue sea. Usually a white line of foam showed along the base of it, where the surf broke on the rocks. During storms, great cones of spray would fly into the air and drift across it like mist. We could feel their thunder, seven miles away, though we could not hear it. Then the sea and the sky were an inky, leaden black, but the island shone with a strange light like silver, and the Inishrone people would say that the wild Spanish horses were trying to land on the Island of Horses.

Inishrone is our island. It lies three miles off the coast of Connemara, nearly at the mouth of Galway Bay. Its thick end juts out into the bay, with high cliffs that save us all from being washed away by the Atlantic rollers in the wintertime. Up there on the cliffs, on a summer day, you would imagine that you could throw a stone on to the lighthouse at Bungowla, on the biggest Aran island. Inishrone is a good place, and we have a way of living that suits us, though it would not please everyone.

There are houses scattered all over the island, but there is only one village. It is called Garavin, which means bad weather. It is not well named, for it is at the sheltered side of the island, where the quay is. There are two shops there, and a forge where you can get a metal rim put on the wheel of your cart, as well as having your horse shod. There is Matt Flaherty's public house, where the men of the island come to drink their evening porter, and a post office run by the crankiest women in all Ireland. I do not know whether they get cranky from working in the post office, or whether they are picked because they are cranky. Whatever the reason, we have a saying on Inishrone for the last seventy years: "As cranky as the post office cat."

More reviews ....

"Must we go as far as the Celtic outback to get away from the awful conventionalised middle-class families that deaden so many English books?" (Marghanita Laski, The Observer)

"There is a wild Irish magic about The Island of Horses." (Birmingham Post)

"When Miss Dillon writes of the sea, one can almost get the tang of the salt and hear the waves breaking on a rocky shore." (The Irish Independent)

"An entrancing book ... I was able momentarily to recapture that dreamlike quality of enjoyment which marked my reading forty years ago." (The Listener)

"Miss Dillon is a fine writer, and she has here a story to match her gifts --- fast-moving, with plenty of action that never exceeds the bounds of credibility ... The characterization is particularly good." (Times Literary Supplement)

If you would like to read THE ISLAND OF HORSES, there may be a new paperback soon. Or try your local library, where they know about books for young people.

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