The Unmaking of Ellie Rook by Sandra Ireland

Sandra Ireland's new novel tries to fit a lot into its short length, but it's a well-crafted narrative blending fantastical folklore and bleak domestic reality

Book Review by Emily Hay | 25 Jul 2019
  • The Unmaking of Ellie Rook
Book title: The Unmaking of Ellie Rook
Author: Sandra Ireland

When Ellie Rook left her scrapyard life in Scotland behind, she never thought she’d return – her shiny new gap year lifestyle didn’t fit with the tangled childhood she’d left behind. But when Ellie’s mother is reported missing, presumed drowned, suddenly she’s plunged back into her darkly twisted childhood; when events begin to unravel, she discovers there are even murkier truths lurking beneath the surface.

Fast-paced and well written, The Unmaking of Ellie Rook sets out to do a lot in its slim 200 pages. The intertwining of Scottish folklore lends a mythical nature to the very serious domestic abuse storyline unravelling before us. It’s an engaging and different way to approach the subject matter, craftily placing this very real, 21st century story in a Scottish cultural context. Indeed, at points the magic seems to flow directly from the page.

Yet, while the controlling and abusive behaviour of Ellie’s father leaves a powerful impact, in many ways the story’s length is to its detriment. Ireland weaves a complex and gripping plot, but in this short space it simply feels rushed at times; some of the twists the story takes seem unconvincing with the speed in which they happen. A lovingly crafted narrative where folklore and domestic reality meet, but one which seems somewhat lacking. [Emily Hay]

Polygon, 11 Jul, £8.99