The 1920s style cover, nostalgic lettering and handsomely stamped binding may at first give the reader the impression that Child of St Kilda is a sunny holiday escapade to the Outer Hebrides; gannets swirling up to the sky from the Island on the Edge of the World. Although undeniably beautiful and rich in wildlife however, the reality for the islanders making an existence on St Kilda was perhaps one of the hardiest to endure against the will of the elements. Drawn from her own sketchbooks made on location, the deceptive simplicity of Beth Water’s illustrations give space and fresh air to her subject, and are utterly absorbing. The hand painted mono prints in earthy tones are perfectly apposite to far flung island life, capturing the earthy reality to daily life in an isolated community relying on each other and what nature yields for survival. As the population declines and ultimately leave St Kilda, the reader is left deeply moved by this unusual, fascinating work.
And a little bit about St Kilda and Beth’s visit there: