Review: A Swift Pure Cry by Siobhan Dowd

A Swift Pure Cry
Siobhan Dowd
Genre: YA Historical Drama
Released: February 1 2007 (first published March 2 2006)
by Definitions
Source: Borrowed from library
Rating: ★★★★

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Life has been hard for Shell since the death of her mam. Her dad has given up work and turned his back on reality, leaving Shell to care for her brother and sister. When she can, she spends time with her best friend Bridie and the charming, persuasive Declan, sharing cigarettes and irrreverent jokes.

Shell is drawn to the kindness of Father Rose, a young priest, but soon kinds herself the centre of an escalating scandal that rocks the small Irish community to its foundations.

I originally picked up this book having no idea what it was about as I was drawn to the picture that was on the spine and the cover. I have a thing for covers that make me think “what the hell is that?” and since the blurb is quite vague, I picked it up for the cover.

I was going to file this under DNF because the first chapter is full of Catholicism when Shell refinds her faith when a new priest gives mass at her church. I do believe in God, but even that was a bit too much for me. I don’t mind a few religious references in books, but there are so many in this one that I considered putting it down.

However, I did give it a second chance and I’m glad that I did. Siobhan Dowd has a beautiful and personal narrative style which really captured my attention; I loved the Irish feel to the narrative. Once I picked up this book again, I couldn’t put it down. I was too engrossed by Shell’s story to put it down, I didn’t even bother to sleep.

One thing that really stood out for me was how Dowd makes pregnancy sound and feel. To me, it sounds horrific, especially going into labour. This is one of those books where I would not want to be the main character, especially after all that Shell has been through. I definitely wouldn’t want her dad to be my dad. Her dad is the father from hell!

I could actually feel myself getting frustrated at certain characters. The police interrogation scenes that feature Superintendent Molloy made me want to jump inside the book and beat sense into the man (highlight to view spoiler) after he refuses to believe that Shell’s baby was a girl and was stillborn, not a boy that was left at the beach to die. The man seemed ignorant and stubborn, which really showed why the police failed and got into a mess. Most of the Coolbar residents seemed to be quite two-faced to me. One minute they’re sweet and kind and the next they’re saying that they “knew Shell’s trouble from the minute they saw her”. I’ve seen these things happen before and it’s quite disgusting.

A Swift Pure Cry is beautifully written with a heartbreaking story and I would definitely recommend this to young adult readers.

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