The Sunlight Pilgrims
By Jenni Fagan
Hardcover, 272 pages
The year is 2020 and temperatures are dropping incredibly, threatening an ice age. Dylan leaves London after the death of his mother to remote Clachan Fells, where he meets enigmatic Constance and her transgender daughter, Stella. As the snow surrounds them and neighbors freeze, the three of them work to carve out their own space in what feels like the end of the world.
I’m going to be blunt – I got absolutely nothing out of this book and I was bored out of my friggen mind the entire time. It was a real struggle to finish, but I hate abandoning books and I requested this to review, so I felt I owed it a full chance. But oh, the struggle was real. I think my feelings are primarily due to a misunderstanding about the premise of the book paired a writing style that I don’t enjoy.
I figured I’d be getting an environmental, post-apocalyptic book with lots of action. I obviously missed the part of about bonds of family and shaping who we are and whatnot, because this was a character-driven novel. While the temperature was an issue, and there was lots of snow, and some people froze and everyone talked about how they were cold, the impending ice age really felt like more of a background element and didn’t seem to truly affect our three main characters.
I want to stress that I don’t think Fagan’s writing is bad, it’s just not a style I’m accustomed to or prefer. It’s hard to describe, but I’d say it’s somewhat poetic? Which, after just now finding Fagan’s website and seeing that she describes herself as a poet, makes a lot of sense. There are a lot of abstract thoughts, gritty feelings and the speech was hard to follow because rather than “speaking with their words in quotes” people
-spoke like this, she said while rolling her eyes. It’s harder to follow when actions and text aren’t separated, you know.
I often lost track of who was speaking, or when they stopped speaking and were then performing an action.
I’ll also admit I did a fair bit of skimming past the halfway mark. I really just wanted to finish the book and get on to something good. I just didn’t connect with any of the characters and while I found twelve-year-old Stella’s struggle for acceptance and the difficulties she faced with trying to live as a girl without hormone blockers, it wasn’t enough to carry the story for me.
I was expecting the sort of atmosphere I received from The Road and Wolf Road but what I got was an exploration of human feelings and strange relationships and lots of scenes with characters glugging wine and smoking pot. I have no problem with any of these things, if I’m in the mood for them, but I certainly wasn’t while I read this book.
It took me 15 days to get through this book and I sort of regret spending so much time slogging through it. I’m sure there was probably a message or meaning to this book, but boy, was it lost on me! If the premise interests you, of course go for it, but it’s not a book I’d recommend. Simply not my style!
I received this book for free from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review. All opinions in this post are my own.
Visit Fagan’s website here.