Today is the day that I get to rave about the under 200 page novel that is The Unmaking of Ellie Rook by Sandra Ireland. I’d like to thank Kelly for having me on-board the tour, as well as the publishers over at Polygon for my beautiful copy of the book to read in preparation for the tour. The Unmaking of Ellie Rook is the third novel from Sandra Ireland, it is due to be published by Polygon in both paperback and e-book format on the 11th of July. Pre-order yourself a copy here.
Sandra Ireland was born in England but lived for many years in Éire before returning home to Scotland in the 1990s. She is the author a psychological thriller, Beneath the Skin, which was shortlisted for a Saltire Society First Novel Award in 2017. Sandra also enjoys writing poetry, that is often inspired by the seascapes of Scotland’s rugged east coast. Her poems have been widely published in anthologies, including New Writing Scotland, and Seagate III (Dundee). She won the Dorothy Dunbar Rose Bowl for Poetry, awarded by the Scottish Association of Writers, in 2017 and 2018. Sandra is Secretary of Angus Writers’ Circle and one third of the Chasing Time Team, which runs writing retreats in a gloriously gothic rural setting.
A single phone call from halfway across the world is all it takes to bring her home . . . ‘Ellie, something bad has happened.’
Desperate to escape her ‘kid from the scrapyard’ reputation, Ellie Rook has forged a new life for herself abroad, but tragedy strikes when her mother, Imelda, falls from a notorious waterfall. Here, according to local legend, the warrior queen Finella jumped to her death after killing a king. In the wake of her mother’s disappearance, Ellie is forced to confront some disturbing truths about the family she left behind and the woman she has become. Can a long-dead queen hold the key to Ellie’s survival? And how far will she go to right a wrong?
Can I just take a minute to appreciate the beautiful cover, it was photographed by Madeleine Brunnmeier and designed by Kari Brownlie, it’s just gorgeous.
The Unmaking of Ellie Rook has various depths that touch upon unsettling themes, from family toxicity to the dynamic pecking order within a hostile family situation. The Rooks live a very independent life in terms of dealing with aspects of family life with minimal outside socialisation. This changes when Ellie is drawn back home after her mother has disappeared, she returns to her childhood as soon as she steps over her father’s doors threshold. Sandra Ireland coaxes you into the Rook’s life with a disaster that would bring any normal family together; with Ellie picking up her mum’s side of the house work as the police are in high searching mode, nothing is at all what it seems. The veil of familial life begins to fall bit by bit, this made me as a reader feel quite on edge and paranoid.
This novel wasn’t what I expected at all, it was more. The Unmaking of Ellie Rook is a domestic psychological thriller that is sneaks up on you in such a poetically subtle way that I thought that I was reading it wrong. The way that the chapters are written, it by every day occurring after Ellie’s arrival. With every day that passes the storyline becomes evermore tension filled with multiple confrontations and revelations. We learn early on about tensions within the family, that are gasp worthy and add to the captivating power of the novel.
It is apparent that Sandra carefully planned how the storyline would develop and begin to unravel in a natural manner. The way that some chapters included snippets of Ellie’s childhood memories solidified the strength of the characters, as well as creating a feeling of ‘reflection in hindsight – all the puzzle pieces were falling into place for us a couple of seconds before Ellie. Although the narrative was written first person, you completely felt as though you were there in Ellie’s head and watching the crumbling of the novel through her eyes. The name of the novel completely reflects the words within it, the story is Ellie’s realisation of what her family is really like; by coming home after time away, she is seeing it through new eyes. What unfolds will make sure that family life is never the same again.
I started this read the day that it came through my letterbox and I finished it that same night, squeezing a chapter in when I could. For me The Unmaking Of Ellie Rook was a simple to follow, captivating read. I was shook! Recommended!