A dolphin rocks up in the bay of an impoverished Irish village in the hot summer of 1976, transforming the lives of the local community. For the adults, it’s a chance to cash in, selling ice creams and boat trips but for Emer it’s a chance to connect with a wild creature, a means of escape from her restricted life at home – and a link to local badboy loner Seth “Dog” Cullen. She lives for her midnight visits to the beach with her friends, when the tourists have gone home and they can swim with “their dolphin” in peace. But the village’s good fortune enrages kids from the upmarket town nearby and a bitter feud rips the two communities apart. Emer, Dog and their friends find themselves trapped in the crossfire.
An undercurrent of threat and violence runs throughout
Although the story is based on an Irish legend, On Midnight Beach feels gritty and real and although it’s soaked in the hot, stifling details of the summer of ’76 (tarmac melting, plagues of ladybirds, water rationing) it’s modern, fresh and compelling. I started the book slowly and hesitantly because I wasn’t sure where it would take me. The book starts with a shock – the scene of a local girl being mauled by a dog, and Seth Cullen taking drastic action to stop it. It’s an isolated incident but it sets the tone. An undercurrent of threat and violence runs throughout the story, filling you with unease as you read. There are other themes too – like masculinity, toxic or otherwise, loyalty to pointless causes and feeling trapped in the life your family and community expect of you – something all teenagers and many adults can relate to. The characters are what keep you reading on though, especially Emer and Dog, the noble outsider who becomes a natural leader.
I was desperate to find out what was going to happen, but knew deep down that this kind of feud escalates, and unless Emer can stop the fighting, there’s only one way it can end…
You can buy On Midnight Beach by Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick here
Or find out about the book I’m writing here