The Gloaming by Kirsty Logan

The Gloaming

Not gonna lie, I was a little disappointed with this one. After reading The Gracekeepers and absolutely loving it, I thought I’d give The Gloaming a try. It had the same nautical, mystical atmosphere, but the plot just didn’t grab me at all.

It begins by introducing an ordinary family who live on an extraordinary island; one where, when you die, you take your last creaking steps towards the edge of the cliff before your body turns to stone. These rocky effigies gather at the coastline; immovable memories of the inhabitants that once were.

Parallel to this rather strange and random way of life, the Ross family lose their youngest child to the wrath of the ocean. The loss scars all members of the family forever, and as the story moves on so do the characters in their own ways.

The word ‘gloaming’ is defined as ‘twilight or dusk’, and the author uses this sentiment as a way to encapsulate this moment in time that the characters feel they are experiencing.  

What Mara didn’t see was that this time with Pearl was the gloaming: that space between day and night, that lowering of the sky, when the light pales to blue and everything is outlined in gold. It’s the most beautiful part of the day – the golden hour, the photographer’s favourite. But it can’t last. To stay in the gloaming is to hold off the night. But if the night never comes, then neither can the day.

So what is the book about? You follow this family (mostly the middle child, Mara, and her relationship with Pearl) through a period of time in their lives, but for what reason I’m not even sure I could tell you.

Fairytales and folklore feature frequently throughout, through which I believe Mara tries to discover what is true and real in life, and what isn’t. She frequently comes across the same childhood stories told in different ways by different people, and this notion bewilders her. I think this is a way of expressing how we all grow and discover, and how the further we venture from home sometimes the stranger the world seems.

The further away she got, the closer she grew to it – its narrow edge of reality, its flirtation with the other side.

There are elements of this which allude to how we deal with change and grief, and perhaps the reference to the ‘gloaming’ is the pinnacle of this observation; nothing in life is permanent, but we must always move forward into a new day.

We might think, Why did this happen to me? But we might as well ask, Why did this happen to the jellyfish? The answer is the same for us and for the jellyfish: it didn’t happen to you. It just happened.

They didn’t live happily ever after, like a couple in a story. But they were happy for a while, and perhaps that’s all we can ask.

A bit of a bizarre one to say the least, and not a book I’d recommend everyone rushes to read. I do however remember enjoying The Gracekeepers, so maybe I’ll revisit that one soon!

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