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A Swift Pure Cry by Siobhan Dowd
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A Swift Pure Cry (2006)

by Siobhan Dowd

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
4492236,190 (3.92)26
Coolbar, Ireland, is a village of secrets and Shell, caretaker to her younger brother and sister after the death of their mother and with the absence of their father, is not about to reveal hers until suspicion falls on the wrong person.
  1. 00
    The Earth Hums in B Flat by Mari Strachan (FlossieT)
    FlossieT: Strong thematic connections - mystery, adolescence and growing up, family secrets - and both extremely well written.
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» See also 26 mentions

English (21)  Portuguese (1)  All languages (22)
Showing 1-5 of 21 (next | show all)
A beautiful, gut-wrenching story that tore at my heart. ( )
  HeatherLINC | Jul 4, 2016 |
This bleak novel for young adults may seem maudlin to some, but paints a thoughtful portrait of Ireland’s poverty, hope, and pride that many readers will find touching and engaging. The story follows Shell, a teenage girl whose mother has recently died and who lives with her younger siblings and neglectful father in the rural town of Coolbar. An outcast and uninterested in school, Shell finds solace in the friendship of a young new priest and an unsteady relationship with a boy in her class. She becomes pregnant and, without telling anyone, gives birth to a stillborn baby. Then another baby is found dead, and Shell is the main suspect. In the end her name is cleared, but she finds herself alone, looking ahead to an uncertain future. The story arc feels unbalanced, with a lot of exposition and little time dedicated to the climax and denouement, but the writing is poetic, bringing to mind the sweeping fields and rocky shores of Ireland. Shell is well-developed, her inner world carefully thought-out and endearing. The dialogue feels natural; the reader can almost hear the accents. There are some Briticisms that may require explanation, but they do not distract from the story. While there is some sexual content, it is not graphic. Themes of family, friendship, self-sufficiency and faith are woven throughout, lovingly portraying the balance of beauty and despair characteristic of Ireland. A Swift Pure Cry will appeal to teen and adult readers who don’t mind some sadness in their reading. Recommended. Grades 10+ ( )
  kottenbrookk | Nov 14, 2014 |
I grabbed this one up because the author of [b:A Monster Calls|8621462|A Monster Calls|Patrick Ness|http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51-pcxuY0yL._SL75_.jpg|13492114], a book that a number of people held in awe, said he had worked the idea from Siobhan Dowd, who had died before being able to do so herself.

While it's lovely and flits with very large heavinesses, I think I don't connect with an essentially Irish story. There are themes that are worldwide - the parent-hunger, faith and its lack, poverty, cattiness, teen pregnancy - but how it's dealt with in that kind of community with those reactions, I just don't feel it.

Jimmy and Trixie are the best siblings. Oh, those two, I do hug.

Dowd has only written 4 books. Try one out? ( )
  EhEh | Apr 3, 2013 |
Another YA read that will draw adults as well, this novel takes place in County Cork during the 1980s. For North American readers, the Talent family home’s lack of amenities will seem more typical of the 1950s. No TV, no malls or movies, the Talent siblings (15, 9 and 6?) play made up games with each other and cut out dolls from old magazines. When their alcoholic father wants to drink and count his stash hidden in the piano, he sends the children out to pick up stones in the field, no matter the weather. This is a wonderfully conveyed visual for their hard, dour life.

At 15, Shell, short for Michelle, has lost her mother to cancer and lost her faith. “In Shell’s mind, Jesus got off the cross and walked off to the nearest bar.” She starts “mitching”, skipping school, stealing from the local shops and devastatingly, gives in to the local Lothario, Declan Ronan. By the time Shell realizes she’s pregnant, Declan has run away from home to America. She hides her pregnancy under her father’s coat and in a believable, one-of-a-kind scene, gives birth at home with the help of her younger siblings. No melodrama, no Hallmark moments: just 3 traumatized children.

The plot takes a sharp turn here involving spoilers; let’s just say Shell’s trauma is just beginning….

There`s a delicate subplot involving a new parish assistant, Father Rose. The antithesis of the pedophile priest, Father Rose befriends Shell as much as he can within the restraints of 1980s Irish Catholicism.

This novel came recommended by Patrick Ness, author of The Knife of Neve Letting Go, who places it in a category with To Kill a Mockingbird; both are coming-of-age stories deeply true to their culture and time and at the same time, universal.

Something for teens and adults. Highly recommended 8 out of 10. ( )
1 vote julie10reads | Aug 22, 2011 |
Reviewed by Kimmy (Class of 2012)
Who is the father of Shell’s baby? In A Swift Pure Cry by Siobhan Dowd, fifteen year old Michelle “Shell” Talent lives in County Cork, Ireland with her father and her two younger siblings. Shell’s mother has died and it’s her responsibility to take care of her family. Siobhan Dowd had won many awards for her writing, including the 2007 Branford Boase Award for outstanding novel for younger teens. In this story, Shell becomes pregnant by somebody she knew and who leaves her alone and pregnant. The mystery in the book is who is the father of her unborn baby. The thing I didn’t like about this book is that I didn’t understand the part who was the father of the baby, and there were so many people involved in this part. My favorite part was that her younger siblings were learning something new every each day during the pregnancy they were becoming more talkative. This book has a lot of drama going on and if you like that type of book, you would love reading A Swift Pure Cry. ( )
  HHS-Students | Oct 22, 2009 |
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