Synopsis from Goodreads: Michael was looking forward to moving into a new house. But now his baby sister is ill, his parents are frantic, and Doctor Death has come to call. Michael feels helpless. Then he steps into the crumbling garage and encounters a strange being who changes his world forever.
I thoroughly enjoyed Skellig. I finished it a few weeks ago and am still thinking about it. It's a children's story written in a minimalist style that is packed with meaning. It's this meaningful stuff that has stayed with me.
I'd heard that Skellig is an angel. I like angels so when a copy of the book came into my possession, I decided to read it as soon as. I think of angels as beings of light, not necessarily with wings, so I wasn't expecting Skellig to be so, how can I put it? Organic. So like us. It made me think, is he an angel?
" “What are you?" I whispered.
He shrugged again.
Something," he said. "Something like you, something like a beast, something like a bird, something like an angel." He laughed. "Something like that.” "
Skellig, I found out, is an Irish word for 'rock'. When we first meet Skellig in Michael's parents' dilapidated garage, he is suffering from arthritis. How did he get there? I felt a sense of unease knowing this strange person was slumped amongst the clutter in Michael's crumbling garage, living on bugs and covered in spiderwebs. He's dressed in black and has the pallor of a vampire. You don't expect an angel to suffer pain, be grumpy and wear tatty black garb. Skellig, what are you? Who are you? Are you suffering because you've been cast out? Are you a fallen angel? But then, why can't an angel be an organic being? I liked how the book challenged my perception of angels. I liked how real Skellig is. His name and human condition make him real to us, earthly, but he certainly isn't a human being as Michael and his new friend and neighbour, Mina, soon discover when they decide to help Skellig heal.
How long had Skellig been there and how would the story unfold?
Mina is a wonderful character who is home schooled by her mother. (I read the story to my 8 year old, Charis. She liked how she introduced herself to Michael and her direct way of talking to him. Mina made us giggle in places). I liked their values and their relaxed and positive attitude to life. Michael gets to know Mina during his time off from school and we are given a snapshot of Mina's unconventional life; one I would have loved as I loathed school. She is learning about Milton and evolution. She enjoys drawing and is fascinated by birds.
“Drawing makes you look at the world more closely. It helps you see what you’re looking at more clearly. Did you know that?" ~ Mina
She is interested in the evolution of winged beings. Hmmm. All of these things are significant. Every reference in the book is loaded with meaning. (There is a bit of repetition in the book that is worthy of note. Of course repetition is a necessary and powerful tool to the writer; it binds the words into a story like sauce binds meat and veg into a meal. Charis noticed that the characters clicked their tongues a lot. They DO click their tongues a lot, perhaps to show their pensive mood. On the next reading she said, 'let's read more Skellig and see if the characters click their tongues. I bet they do.')
So, if Skellig isn't an angel could he be a human who has evolved/or is in the process of evolving into something else? Ooh, an exciting concept.
“They say that shoulder blades are where your wings were, when you were an angel," she said. "They say they're where your wings will grow again one day.”
The reference to Milton has ignited an interest in him. According to Mina and her mother, Milton could see angels, actually see them it seems. I find this idea mightily interesting and my next step will be to delve into it.
There is some touching magic realism in the story that adds to the mystery of Skellig. It's lovely how meeting Skellig and Mina helps Michael stay strong during his baby sister's illness. There's a bit between Michael and his dad in the car that made my eyes sting.
Skellig, who are you? Where are you from? Where will you go next?
“Sometimes we just have to accept there are things we can’t know. Why is your sister ill? Why did my father die?…Sometimes we think we should be able to know everything. But we can’t. we have to allow ourselves to see what there is to see, and we have to imagine.”
Skellig was read as part of the 5 Year Classics Challenge (see challenge list here).