MARIE-LOUISE FITZPATRICK: ON MIDNIGHT BEACH
Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick is a very familiar name in the world of childrens' books. She has gifted us with so many extraordinary picture books; each one filled with wonder, exceptional storytelling and delightful illustrations expressing complex issues and feeling. Books such as I'm A Tiger, Too; Izzy and Skunk; There; The New Kid and (my personal favourite) I Am I simultaneously touch the heart and paint longstanding pictures in the imagination and thought.
Even the wordless Owl, Bat, Bat Owl exhibits this unique storytelling ability. And these only scratch the surface of an incredible catalog of her books.
Then when we turn our attention to her novels for young people, we find something more. In addition to her outstanding capability as a storyteller, we discover a voice that is resonant, strong, evocative and yet uncluttered, pure. From her first novel in 2010, Timecatcher, she really had something...different, wonderful...that 'oh wow' that I so hope for every time I open the pages of a new book. Her subsequent novels; Dark Warning and Hagwitch, tell very different stories in very different voices. But each are so well-told that they seem to eek out of the pages. Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick has never disappointed.
And now, we arrive at her latest novel:
ON MIDNIGHT BEACH
author: Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick
Faber & Faber (2 April 2020)
The summer of 1976 was a summer different to any other. The sun sat in the sky turning each day into long, hot, sweltering ones, the like of which Carrig Cove, Donegal had never seen. This quiet seaside town seemed set to linger on the fringes of the country waiting for relief. And then, a dolphin appears in Ross Bay and soon, visitors flock to the town in hopes of catching a glimpse of the wild visitor and Carrig Cove sees an economic boon. Emer Monoghan sneaks to the beach every night at midnight to swim with the dolphin...and to meet Dog Cullen; a boy she had kept clear of all her life, until this summer. But Emer no longer cares what those in the small village may think. Nor does she care if the posh, neighbouring town is raging about the change in fortune 'dolphin fever' has brought to Emers' village. But as the temperature continues to rise, the long-standing rivalry reaches the highest possible level and explodes one fateful night with tragic consequences...for everyone.
This story unfolds with such a self-assured pace that the reader experiences every moment completely. The landscape, the people, the circumstances are painted with clear, pinpoint accuracy of language that creates not so much a book, as an experience. You believe and feel on a almost physical level that you are right there, part of the story. And what a story it is! The beautiful wildness and ensuing events mirror the 'growing-up' as it happens to Emer, along with all the trepidation, self-realisation, loss of innocence and the grief that comes with seeing life in a new, not at all comfortable way. For adult readers, it will take you back to that time in your own life; for young adults, it gives a feeling of connection...you are not alone in this. The story has all the power, all the joy and all the pain of that moment in time. And this is accentuated when you understand that what Fitzpatrick has given us is a retelling on the pivotal Irish legend; the Táin Bo Cuailnge. It adds an understanding of the relevance and importance of myth...of why we still tell them...and how these ancient stories are what makes us human. Wonderful characterisation; incredible, gripping plot and writing that transfixes the reader; compelling, powerful and beautiful. I loved every single page.