Book review: The Crows of Beara

Julie Christine JohnsonThe Crows of Beara by Julie Christine Johnson is a sensitive tale of two lost souls from opposite sides of the world who are in such pain they are unable to recognise a fresh chance for happiness. Annie Crowe, recovering addict and corporate PR specialist, flies from Seattle to Ireland to promote a new copper mine. When she meets Daniel Savage, an artist with a troubled past, both start to hear a mystical Gaelic voice whispering words of poetry.

The west coast of Ireland is a bleak, beautiful, empty place. Jobs are thin on the ground so when a new copper mine is announced, the locals are divided: the economy, or nature. Annie arrives, determined to make a success of this last chance to get her career back on track. When she discovers the mine will endanger the nesting site of the Red-Billed Choughs, she must tell lies in the name of PR. She doesn’t expect it to make her acknowledge the lies she has been telling herself; about her failed marriage, her failing career, and her alcoholism.

Annie, flawed but vulnerable, is an easy character to like. Weighed down by her addiction and the knowledge she did shameful things she can’t remember, she moves forward step-by-step. You will her onwards. She soon falls in love with the beauty of Beara and the openness of the community. This causes a professional problem, how can she promote a copper mine which will damage this exquisite nature. As she wrestles with her conscience, she must also resist the temptation to pick up a glass of alcohol. In Annie and Daniel, Johnson has created two wounded characters who are not sorry for themselves, who face up to their pasts and their grief, who try to look forward. This is an uplifting story on so many levels.

As with In Another Life, Johnson’s debut novel, there is something mystical going on in The Crows of Beara. A skeleton of myth and legend underlies the Irish setting and runs throughout the story. The west coast of Ireland is certainly an extra character here; the descriptions of the Beara Peninsula, its mists, its cliffs, its Red-Billed Choughs [the crows of the title] are so beautifully written you will be getting out your hiking boots and googling hotel accommodation.

Read my review of Julie Christine Johnson’s debut novel, In Another Life, and how she researched the Cathar history in Southern France.

If you like this, try:-
‘Himself’ by Jess Kidd
‘The Little Red Chairs’ by Enda O’Brien
‘Nora Webster’ by Colm Tóibín

‘The Crows of Beara’ by Julie Christine Johnson [UK: Ashland Creek Press] Buy now

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