The Watch House Bernie Mcgill

510+Hd5Oc4L._AC_US218_Pub: Tinder Press


As the twentieth century dawns on the island of Rathlin, a place ravaged by storms and haunted by past tragedies, Nuala Byrne is faced with a difficult decision. Abandoned by her family for the new world, she receives a proposal from the island’s aging tailor. For the price of a roof over her head, she accepts.

Meanwhile the island is alive with gossip about the strangers who have arrived from the mainland, armed with mysterious equipment which can reportedly steal a person’s words and transmit them through thin air. When Nuala is sent to cook for these men – engineers, who have been sent to Rathlin by Marconi to conduct experiments in the use of wireless telegraphy – she encounters an Italian named Gabriel, who offers her the chance to equip herself with new skills and knowledge. As her friendship with Gabriel opens up horizons beyond the rocky and treacherous cliffs of her island home, Nuala begins to realise that her deal with the tailor was a bargain she should never have struck.

As a reader I struggle with books that use dialect text..

I would much rather the author tell me where the character hails from, then my head can ‘voice’ the character for me.  I just find that if I don’t know the area or the lingo used I find it difficult to read and understand…. having said that,

The Watch House is a truly good tale.

Having accepted Ned..the Tailor offer of marriage, Nuala soon finds she has made a mistake. With her family gone she thought that this was the only life on offer, but when she finds she is interested in the new way of communication brought by none other than the Great Marconi, who comes to the island of Raithlin, she forms a close relationship with The Italian Gabriel Donati.

The Watch House has wonderful characters, some likable some not, it is atmospheric and life his hard for Nuala. McGill captures her bleak start and the lifestyle of the time perfectly.

This is story which captures your heart quickly, I soon became involved with all that happens with Nuala, she is treated poorly by Ginny, the crony sister of Ned the Tailor.

There is a lot of story in this book, and watching the real  history unfold within it’s pages is quite amazing. You can tell this book has been well researched.

One to read and recommend.


Ever wonder what books your favourite author is reading and recommending ??….

Bernie has kindly give her top ten for us to enjoy.

Bernie McGill: Ten Favourite Books (Today)

I imagine this is a little like choosing music and reading material for Desert Island Discs – it entirely depends on what point in your life you are making the selection, perhaps even on which day of the week. Today, and in no particular order, these are my ten.

BELOVED by Toni Morrison

I’d spent years at University reading books that were supposed to be good for me and most of them had been written by white western men. When I left my studies, I made a resolution to – at least for a period of time – read books by women, and from parts of the world and from cultures other than my own. If I hadn’t I may never have realised that there were books like this. BELOVED is stunning – a ghost story, a story of slavery, a horror story, told matter-of-fact.

ALIAS GRACE by Margaret Atwood

This is another book I read in my twenties and for the reasons above. I’ve been a convert to Margaret Atwood ever since. It tells the nineteenth century story of Grace Marks who has been convicted of murdering her employer and his housekeeper, but who claims to have no memory of the incident. A beautifully written book that tells a cracking good story. I’m enthralled, at the moment, with the tv serialisation of Atwood’s THE HANDMAID’S TALE and looking forward to the release of the film of ALIAS GRACE.

DEAR LIFE by Alice Munro

Another favourite Canadian writer, this is a master class in the short story. Every now and again I re-read her to try and work out the technicalities: how she does what she does so well, and every time I get carried off, aloft, by the storytelling. ‘Corrie’ is a personal favourite from the collection, in the style of Flannery O’Connor’s classic short story ‘Good Country People’ (also highly recommended for those who like their fiction short).

AFTER YOU’D GONE by Maggie O’Farrell

A friend bought me this book as a birthday present and I’ve read every one of Maggie O’Farrell’s books since. The story is pieced together as the main character, Alice Raikes, lies in a coma in hospital, in varying stages of consciousness, following an accident. I love the mosaic structure of it, all the narratives at competing angles, everything told slant. I don’t like to write chronologically. It was one of the first books I read that made me feel that it might be possible to be a writer.

THE BUTCHER BOY by Patrick McCabe

Small-town Ireland, a disturbed young man, and his eventual descent into madness. Dark, savage and brilliant and written by an Irish man. If this had been on my MA reading list, I wouldn’t have been quite so ready to leave these shores behind, literarily speaking. (Although I don’t think it would be included in the list of recommended reading from the Irish Tourist Board.)


I love the title of this book. It’s the first I read by Sebastian Barry and I’ve read every one since. His books fit together like one big puzzle: a bit character in one turns up in another with her or his own dedicated story, but stand-alone, they are nonetheless totally absorbing. Eneas is an innocent who, desperate for work, joins the Royal Irish Constabulary after the first world war, finds himself on the IRA blacklist and consequently an exile from his country. In many ways, the story of Eneas is the untold side of the story of Irish independence. Poignant and uplifting in turns: an absolute classic.

FOUR LETTERS OF LOVE by Niall Williams

A friend lent me this book. I haven’t given it back. I will when I’ve bought my own copy but I haven’t done that yet. Don’t lend me books because as soon as I’ve read them, I feel like I own them and I can’t bear to part with this one. It is a miraculous book about love and magic and joy. HISTORY OF THE RAIN, by the same author, is also a treasure.


Spare and earthy and beautifully written, this book follows the journey of an unnamed Irish writer (Samuel Beckett) from Paris at the beginning of the second world war. One of those books that makes you realise that you’ve never fully considered what it must have been like to live through that experience: from the early inconveniences to the daily deprivations to the undeniable atrocities to the palpable relief of its ending.

OLIVE KITTERIDGE by Elizabeth Strout

A novel in stories. Incredibly accomplished, brilliantly written, and testament to the fact that you can love a book in which the main protagonist is not an easy person to love.


Utterly chilling from start to finish. For a taster, read Shirley Jackson’s short story ‘The Lottery’. That will give you a fair idea of what you’re in for. If you don’t like the story, then stay well away.


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