Now in paperback, a classic adventure tale of two boys, a beautiful black horse, and a voyage to a mysterious island off the coast of Ireland.
Chosen by the Sunday Times
(London) as one of its 99 Best Books for Children
The people of remote Inishrone, a few miles off the Connemara coast, know better than to go to the Island of Horses. Everyone has heard tales of men who have gone there and never come back. Yet one day young Pat Conroy and his friend Danny MacDonagh head off anyway, telling their parents that they are fishing for eels. On the island they find no ghosts but many mysteries, including a beautiful—and tame—black colt. But when they return home, with the colt in tow, they find themselves launched into a world of trouble. Before their adventure is over, the boys must brave rough seas and the murderous duplicity of a conniving horse trader, with only the advice of Pat’s frail grandmother and their own good sense to guide them.
A loving, clear-eyed portrait of rural Irish life, The Island of Horses
is fraught with suspense and peopled with unforgettable individuals.
August 7, 2018
(1920-1994) wrote more than thirty books for young people, as well as fiction for adults, including the best-selling historical novel Across the Bitter Sea
, about the struggle for Irish independence in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. With few exceptions, her young people’s books are set in the west of Ireland, in small communities struggling to make a living on the islands and along the the Atlantic coast. As the critic Declan Kiberd wrote in Dillon’s obituary: “What Laura Ingalls Wilder did for children’s literature in the US, she achieved in Ireland, imparting a sure historical sense in books such as The Singing Cave
. That interest in history was a natural expression of her curiosity of mind, and of her family inheritance.”
Building on a family tradition of agitation for Irish independence (her mother’s brother was one of seven men who signed the Proclamation of the Irish Republic and was executed by the British at the end of the 1916 Easter Rising), Eilís Dillon committed herself to preserving and promoting Irish literature and culture. She was a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and a member and strong supporter of Aosdána, the national association of writers, artists, and composers. She even wrote a few of her children’s books in Gaelic, the native Irish language. But, as Kiberd explains, “There was nothing narrowly provincial in her writing: she simply assumed that books about children in Irish settings, if properly written, would be of universal appeal. And so they have proved to be.”
“Eilís Dillon weaves a magic Irish spell and an A-1 mystery-adventure story, taut with action and suspense...The tale sparkles with the atmosphere of the sea and of small-town life.” —The New York Times Book Review
“Dillon paints a vivid portrait of the harsh life on these remote islands; the reader can smell the peat fires and feel the lash of the winds off the Atlantic.” —Terri Schmitz, The Horn Book Magazine
“A very good story about two boys who set out to explore a deserted island off the Connemara coast, and about the adventures that follow. The people are real, the Irish background rings true, and there is a hard, spare poetry in the telling of the story.” —The Guardian
"The ever brilliant New York Review of Books for Children has republished Eilis Dillon’s The Island of Horses
, an adventure about brave boys, a stolen horse and an island in the Atlantic: a story from a vanished Ireland. Quite wonderful." —The Spectator