To the Edge of the World is set on the west coast, in the Hebrides and beyond. It’s the story of Jamie, recently returned to his mother’s island home, and of Mara, an incomer for whom the wild surroundings are everything. Jamie is afraid of the sea whilst Mara is afraid of losing it. In the course of the novel they both face their greatest fears. Will they survive the encounters?
At the recent Edinburgh International Book Festival I had the great pleasure of meeting Julia Green and chairing an event with her and Elizabeth Laird whom I have known and admired for some years. We were discussing their recent novels for young people, both set on the Scottish coast.
In the course of a long career working in libraries and interacting with authors I have never lost the excitement that comes with hearing a writer talk about her work. Listening to Julia chat about her book with Elizabeth and me brought its landscape into clear focus and her characters vividly to life. And the audience’s questions – along with Julia’s answers – made me think about different aspects of the novel.
The sea is a major player in the book. Julia’s descriptions of it in its many moods are perfect. She completely captures its capricious nature so that the reader feels as though it is there. And for me the descriptions of the sea, its vagaries and the characters’ responses to it were what the book was all about. I choose to live by the sea because I love it but I have seen and experienced how it can wreak devastation. I’m not an outdoors girl by any stretch of the imagination but I’ve lived away from the sea and been frantic for the sound and smell and taste of it. So I empathise with both Jamie and Mara and understand their opposing fears.
If all that To the Edge of the World had going for it was its depictions of the sea, I’d have been happy. But, of course, there’s more. There’s an interesting supporting cast, interwoven plot strands and a satisfying story to captivate the reader. Let that reader be you.