The Colony

The Colony by Audrey Magee tells the story of two outsiders who temporarily settle on a remote Irish island amidst a turbulent point in Irish history. In 1979, an English artist, Mr. Lloyd, arrives on this island of only 92 permanent inhabitants to spend the summer painting cliffs, hoping to create “the Irish version of a Gaugin painting.” His rival, a French academic named JP Masson, is returning to the island to complete his thesis on Gaelic, hoping that his five-year field work will earn him a PhD. Both men represent, to some degree, the colonial history that hovers over the island, and both come off as imperious and grumpy as they view the island and its inhabitants through the lens of their own preoccupations. Among the islanders, they’re both viewed with some distaste, except for Mairéad, the young island widow who is involved in a relationship with JP but also poses nude for Lloyd, and her son, James, who becomes fascinated with art through his friendship with Lloyd. Meanwhile, offshore, the violence of the Troubles simmers in the background, ever-present. This is a lyrical, thought-provoking novel.