A moving and original debut novel. Observant, warm and extraordinary.
In the mid-1950s, a small group of Finnish migrants set up camp on Little Rat, a tiny island in an archipelago off the coast of Western Australia. The crayfishing industry is in its infancy, and the islands, haunted though they are by past shipwrecks, possess an indefinable allure.
Drawn here by tragedy, Onni Saari is soon hooked by the stark beauty of the landscape and the slivers of jutting coral onto which the crayfishers build their precarious huts. Could these reefs, teeming with the elusive and lucrative cray, hold the key to a good life?
The Islands is the sweeping story of the Saari family: Onni, an industrious and ambitious young man, grappling with the loss of a loved one; his wife Alva, quiet but stoic, seeking a sense of belonging between the ramshackle camps of the islands and the dusty suburban lots of the mainland; and their pensive daughter Hilda, who dreams of becoming the skipper of her own boat. As the Saari's try to build their future in Australia, their lives entwine with those of the fishing families of Little Rat, in myriad and unexpected ways.
A stunning, insightful story of a search for home.
'There is an other-worldly quality about the Abrolhos which is beyond the reach of ordinary storytelling. Emily Brugman has captured them, staked them to the page in all their isolation and aridity and scoured indifference, because her storytelling is extraordinary.' Jock Serong, author, Preservation
'Beautiful, fresh, wise and true - startlingly good.' - Robert Drewe, author, Ned Kelly
'A beautiful, breathtaking, salty book about finding home on the far reaches of the continental shelf.' Marele Day, author, Lambs of God
About the Author
Emily Brugman grew up in Broulee, on the far south coast of NSW, on the lands of the Yuin people. Her writing has previously appeared in literary journals, magazines and anthologies, including Tracks, the UTS Writers' Anthology and Lines to the Horizon: Australian surf writing. She currently lives in Mullumbimby, on Bundjalung country, and works at Byron Writers Festival. The Islands, her first novel, is inspired by her family's experiences living and working on the Abrolhos Islands between 1959-1972.
"Set among a community of Finnish fishers in a little-known part of the country, Brugman’s debut is a sensuous blend of social history and imaginative fiction." —Guardian
"There is an other-worldly quality about the Abrolhos which is beyond the reach of ordinary storytelling. Emily Brugman has captured them, staked them to the page in all their isolation and aridity and scoured indifference, because her storytelling is extraordinary." —Jock Serong, author, Preservation
"A beautiful breathtaking salty book about finding home on the far reaches of the continental shelf." —Marele Day, author, Lambs of God