After years of nurturing Owl Song at Dawn in my writing shed, it has been such a joy to release it into the wider world.
It has been humbling to know that reviewers and book bloggers have invested their time and intellectual energy into writing about the novel.
Here’s a selection of what they’ve said:
From Rohan Maitzen at Open Letters: “There’s a lot of pain and even tragedy in Owl Song at Dawn, but it ends on a note of optimism, even joy, based on the simple premise that differences can bind the human family together rather than divide it. All it takes is patience, generosity, and willingness to understand. In her author’s note, Sweeney talks about her own sister Lou, who “might well look broken” to outsiders. When Lou was born, her doctor recommended that she be institutionalized, but she wasn’t, and now she leads the way “onto the dance floor, throwing back her head in laughter.” “So which of us is really broken,” Sweeney asks: “Lou, who elbows her way between couples, getting the men to dance with her; or me, who looks on, half in apology, half in admiration?” Owl Song at Dawn is a smart, tender, moving exploration of the same question.” Read the full review here.
From Julia Pascal at London Grip: “This is a gripping novel by a hugely gifted writer and one that is rich on atmosphere and character study. The originality of the work is its investigative story line which focuses on the loving relationship between a twin and her disabled sister. What is unusual is that the protagonist, Maeve, is 79 years old. Her long life is the motor that reveals the changing attitudes to disability in English society over the past decades.” Read the full review here.
From Faye at A Daydreamer’s Thoughts: “As far as I am aware, I have never read a book quite like Owl Song at Dawn. It is a very unique story with a unique writing style and unique structure. It made the book so very interesting to read. It did also make the book have a slow start for me and it took a while for me to really get into the story but once I got used to it all, I was well and truly sucked into the book and I could not wait to see where the story was going to take me. A very exciting way to write a book.” Read the full review here.
From CJ Browne, Crime Writer: “It is a beautifully written story with a poignant narrative interrupted occasionally with short paragraphs which read like poems of the phrases and words that Maeve’s twin Edie would have used. The characterisation is very believable and the outcome satisfying as past and present collide together. A lovely read which makes you think.” Read the full review here.
From Madhouse Family Reviews: “Despite the poignant look at how disabled people were treated in the past and the tragic destiny of both Edie and Maeve, it remains an ultimately uplifting and positive book with life lessons for us all. The fact that the author draws on her own autistic sister for inspiration imbues the whole novel with compassion, tenderness and a level of understanding that make it into a beautiful work that can’t fail to move you.” Read the full review here.
From Rebekah Lattin-Rawstrone for By the Book: “The telling of the novel is beautifully crafted, each passage cleverly timed to build our intrigue and understanding of the wider work. This is intelligent and polished writing telling stories about those whose voices are all too often unheard. Not only will you want to stay up all night reading for the contemporary and historical plot, you won’t fail to appreciate the delicate elegance of the writing. Owl Song at Dawn is a book that should go straight onto bestseller and prize-winning lists.” Read the full review here.
From Butterfly in the Sky: “Emma Claire Sweeney…has put such a lovely book together that combines grief, loss, love and laughter. I can highly recommend it!” Read the full review here.
I am also indebted to all the readers who have taken the time to post their responses on Amazon and Good Reads.
I’ve also felt fortunate to have been asked to write about various aspects of the novel:
For Nudge: “There is so much more to the bonds between people with disabilities and those who support them than the demands of toileting. Over-emphasis on such matters risks reducing the complexity of characters and devaluing their relationships. Much as when we meet people off the page, we might want to get to know their minds before we see them on the loo!” Read full story here.
For Able2UK: “Even back then, I suspected that most people had misconceptions about learning disability, and that fiction and poetry could help to subvert them. Have you ever assumed that, deep down, a sibling must inevitably resent his sister or brother with learning disabilities? That the life of someone with learning disabilities must be overwhelmingly bleak and is therefore deserving of pity? That families who raise their disabled child at home are somehow saintly in their powers of endurance?” Read full story here.
For Foyles: “Even now, learning disability is under- and misrepresented in the media. Most people with such disabilities still face great opposition from family and state if they try to forge romantic and sexual relationships. Young people with disabilities are three to four times more likely to be sexually abused than their non-disabled peers and disability hate crime rose last year by 41%. These are troubling indicators that we have yet to learn the lessons of the past.” Read full story here.
Finally, I have been getting to speak about disability – a subject very close to my heart. Swift on the heels of the London Launch, I hosted an ‘in conversation’ with the hilarious Kathy Lette at Berkhamstead’s beautiful Art Deco cinema, The Rex. I was joined on stage by two trainees from Sunnyside Rural Trust – a social enterprise that offers work experience to people with learning disabilities and autism. Together we interviewed Kathy about her novel The Boy Who Fell to Earth, which was inspired by her autistic son. We all had such a hoot.
Coming up, there’s the Northern launch this Thursday at the Williamson Art Gallery.
Later this month I have a joint Q&A at Segrue Books of Radlett with Jem Lester, author of Shtum, which was inspired by his autistic son.
And next month I’ll be reading at Margate Bookie festival.
On August 1st, I’ll be talking on BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour about growing up with a sister who has disabilities: the hilarity that competes with the heartache; the benefits that can outweigh the drawbacks.
More details on all of these appearances soon.