The Barra Boy

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Pub Date 28 Jun 2022 | Archive Date 18 Jul 2022

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1982. Thirteen-year-old Ewan Fraser is sent to the remote island of Barra, off Scotland’s west coast, to stay with his aunt and uncle.

Resigned to a monotonous summer of boredom, he is befriended by local girl Laura Robertson; together they explore the golden beaches and rocky coves of the idyllic island.

But a dark secret that connects Laura to the mysterious outcast Mhairi Matheson and her son, Billy, is hidden beneath the tranquil surface…

A secret that threatens to tear the small community apart.

Forty years later, Ewan returns to confront the truth about the formative summer of his adolescence, and finally learn the truth about Laura and the boy from Barra.

1982. Thirteen-year-old Ewan Fraser is sent to the remote island of Barra, off Scotland’s west coast, to stay with his aunt and uncle.

Resigned to a monotonous summer of boredom, he is befriended...

A Note From the Publisher

Iain Kelly lives in East Kilbride in Scotland, where he spends most of his time raising his twins. He graduated from the University of Glasgow with a master’s degree in English Literature and Film & Television Studies and works as an editor in the television industry. Any spare time is spent writing, reading and watching stories. His first novel, A Justified State (2018), was followed by State Of Denial (2019) and State Of War (2020).

Iain Kelly lives in East Kilbride in Scotland, where he spends most of his time raising his twins. He graduated from the University of Glasgow with a master’s degree in English Literature and Film &...

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ISBN 9781915352767
PRICE £4.99 (GBP)

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Average rating from 12 members

Featured Reviews

I love Barra and the descriptive passages in this book took me right back there. It's a well written book with brilliant characterisation, all wrapped up with a good storyline. I felt as if I was on the journey with Ewan, the main character, as we read about adolescence and life on a Scottish island. It's a lovely cosy tale to curl up with as Ewan revisits the island he spent a summer in and tries to unravel an old mystery. I would recommend the read and thanks to Net Galley for my ARC.

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A wonderful coming of age book set on the Isle of Barra(Scotland). The main character, Ian Fraser, returns to Barra to face his memories of what happened there when he was a 13 year old. A wonderful book to read and enjoy, the descriptions of the island make me want to get on a plane tomorrow . I will recommend to my friends who love Scotland as much as I do.

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Beautifully written and descriptive, I felt like I was there in Barra. Wonderful, engaging characters and a great storyline. Thanks to NetGalley for the advance copy.

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This is a good summer read. Ewan Fraser, a successful lawyer in London, sees the face of a teenage boy from the subway one day and is immediately transported back to a childhood summer spent on Barra Island: A summer full of grief and friendship, a teenage crush, and a dark mysterious secret kept among the residents of the small island. The journey back there as an adult serves to bring about some closure and clarity for Ewan. I thoroughly enjoyed this book! Iain Kelly captures the depth of Ewan's teenage feelings about grief, infatuation, friendship, and family while slowly unfurling a tightly guarded town secret. This book is a good mixture of a mystery (not a thriller) and a coming-of-age story. And now I have yet another destination added to my ever-growing list of places to visit someday: Scotland and Barra Island. Happy reading! (less)

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I enjoyed this book thoroughly, it is engaging and I loved how it described everything to make it feel like you were there, very well written and fantastic characters. #netgalley #thebarraboy

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Ewan Fraser cannot get his summer in Barra as a young teenager out of his mind. 40 years later he still sees faces he fleetingly recognises and so he takes the decision to go back and put the ghosts of his past to rest.

In 1982 he was sent away from Glasgow to stay with relatives in Barra while his mother is ill in hospital. A place of new friendship and secrets just below the surface. Issues that adults try to keep to themselves and that have the power to hurt.

I found the book had a bit of a slow start and the writing seemed a little clunky but once it got into its stride I-was completely taken in by the story. A lovely evocative book.

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The Barra Boy by Iain Kelly

Ewan Fraser is an ageing lawyer in a London office. He grew up in Glasgow but that was a long time ago. He’s on ‘close friends’ basis with a woman who works in the next building and they meet daily for morning coffee. Ewan Fraser's life is predictable and safe until one morning, from the train, he sees a face from the past. Billy Matheson. Ewan is reminded of a summer on Barra and the unanswered questions he left behind when he departed suddenly to attend his mother's funeral. Seeing Billy Matheson's face, it wasn't him of course, it was so many years ago, Ewan is sufficiently troubled as to immediately take leave and fly to Glasgow and then to Barra.

It is 1982 and 13-year-old Ewan has been dispatched from his home in Glasgow to Barra to live with his aunt and uncle, leaving his father to attend to his dying mother.

Ewan is downbeat; instead of helping his sick mother he’s facing a tedious summer on remote and sparsely-populated Barra. His aunt is well-meaning and his uncle, Ewan’s father’s brother, is rather grim. To add to Ewan’s first and less-than-positive impressions of the island’s inhabitants, he sees a younger boy hiding in a cave at a beach. The boy runs off without speaking. Ewan’s aunt and uncle make it very clear that Ewan must have nothing to do with Billy, but refuse to say why. ‘You’re too young to understand.’ The boy, Billy Matheson, appears again on another day making Ewan feel he is being followed.

Ewan makes friends with a local girl, Laura, and together they explore the island by bicycle. One day they’re joined at a beach by Billy and his mother Mhairi. Mhairi and her son are shunned by the other islanders and Ewan wants to know why. He and Laura overhear a snippet of a heated conversation between the Catholic priest and Mhairi and that leads Ewan to the church where he eavesdrops on a conversation between the priest and Laura’s mother which leads him, eventually, to the truth about Mhairi and Billy.

Ewan’s father calls; his mother has died and he leaves without time to say goodbye to Laura which is why Ewan Fraser, the ageing London lawyer finds himself back on Barra, knocking on the door of Laura Roberston’s house.

Haven’t we all got memories from childhood that don’t make sense? Wouldn’t we all like to travel back in time or place to get the answers to questions that have ached inside us for years?

I loved this book. The characters are carefully crafted, the plot skips along at a very readable pace, indeed the characters are the plot. As we would expect a small community like that on Barra would be complicated and tense and this is communicated to the reader in vivid clarity. The language supports the locations and the destination is well worth the journey. The closing chapters were the perfect ending to the book's well-constructed literary question.

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This book reads like almost a biography, but it's really fiction. But it gives you an amazing feel for the Scottish Isle of Barra (our ancestor's home!). Like others, an unresolved mystery and a decision unmade haunt Ewan as he is making changes in his personal life, so he decided to go to Barra to right what he should have done when he was there at the age of 13, By going back and forth in time, the author allows us to get into Ewan's thoughts and memories, and understand why he is there. It's a stunning book in it's simplicity and t's one to relish as Summer ends.

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This book is not only dramatic and engrossing, it is also insightful and wise. Read it! Read it! You will never forget it! The descriptions of Barra are amazing, I could feel the breeze on my face.

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Memories of a childhood summer on a Scottish island, and the secrets it held. Lovely descriptions of a beautiful landscape, which evoke childhood holidays which so often are better in hindsight.

With thanks to NetGalley and The Book Guild for an ARC.

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This is definitely one of my favourite reads so far this year. I love the Scottishness (is that a word?) of it all. I love the evocative descriptions of Barra and Vatersay and the combination of the bleak loneliness of the islands perched on the edge of the vast Atlantic with the intense claustrophobia of a small community where the gossips know all one's secrets.
The characterization is absolutely superb. I had so much empathy for Billy and his mother I had to stop reading at times and catch my breath. There is layer upon layer of emotional depth in the unraveling of the secrets of the past. This writer has a great future.

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