The story behind The Island Daughter is intertwined with my own life. Firstly, there is a family tragedy, mirroring the recent loss of my own father. Secondly, my mother lives in the beautiful Åland Islands, where the novel is set. I’ve spent countless holidays in this stunning archipelago between Finland and Sweden. In some way, I very much feel like the island daughter myself! Lastly, there are the characters, all of them flawed in some way or other, just like my own dear father.
The Island Daughter
Here is a brief description of the story of The Island Daughter:
A family tragedy forces Alicia to return to the islands where she was raised. She leaves behind a new life in Stockholm with a Swedish journalist, Patrick. But when Mia, his ex, and the only daughter of a local property magnate, makes a move to rekindle their relationship, Alicia is torn between duty and her own happiness. Alicia’s world is further upended when deeply buried family secrets surface. How can she face the future when everything she believed to be true about her past is a lie?
The Loss of A Father Figure
The relationship between Alicia and Patrick is central to the story, but the book also deals with the death of a father figure.
I lost my own dad last October, just as I began writing The Island Daughter, so some of my grief spilt over onto the page. (See my post here on writing about death.) It was extremely difficult to transpose my own feelings to the characters, but it also helped to exorcise the raw pain I felt at the time.
The Åland Islands
One of the main characters in The Island Daughter is its setting on the quirky Åland Islands. It’s where tourists from the mainland flock in the summer to sail in the Baltic. Or they spend their holidays in small simple cottages by the sea, enjoying the peace and quiet and the nightless night of the North.
I’ve spent countless summer and winter holidays on the Islands, where my mother lives. My memories are dominated by the constant presence of the sea wherever you turn. Tourists on bicycles or on sailing boats crowd the Islands in the summer and leave behind a sudden quietness when they all return home at the end of the holidays.
And, of course, there is the delicious food, from freshly caught and home-smoked arctic char to the sweetest strawberries, and cinnamon buns. My mum’s homemade pannkaka (a pancake dish closely resembling the French dessert claufoutis), topped with whipped cream and cloudberry jam is a special treat. There are midsummer celebrations and the end-of-summer crayfish parties, with drinking songs, where too much vodka is consumed. And many, many evenings sitting outside ‘our’ sauna cottage watching the sun, which sets for a matter of hours, low on the horizon.
I’ve wanted to set a novel on the islands for many years now, but I didn’t have a story or the characters ready, so I waited until something developed in my imagination. When Alicia, a woman raised on the islands, and wishing to return home, came to me, I knew I had something – or someone – that I could write about. Although the Islands are central to the Love on the Island series, it is the characters that make it sing (in my humble opinion ☺️)
All of the characters in this novel are flawed in some way. When writing the book, I was thinking a lot about the loss of my father, but also about all of our weaknesses as people. My dad was far from perfect, yet I loved him dearly and miss him terribly. Everybody is lacking in some way, and I feel it’s important to show these imperfections in my characters.
Patrick, Alicia’s new love, is helpless to the charms of his wealthy ex-wife, who is also the mother of his beloved two daughters.
Alicia has suffered the loss of a child, and with the death of her step-father, her vulnerability is increased. Just as she’s faced with the possible break-up with Patrick, old secrets are revealed which further unsettles her present.
The story in The Island Daughter also follows Brit, Alicia’s school friend. After a life spent footloose and fancy-free, travelling the world working on cruise ships, she’s both horrified and delighted when she sees the thin pink lines on a test tube. But can she really settle down and have a baby with a man she’s only known for a matter of months?
Another strong, but flawed, character in the book is Alicia’s mother Hilda. After the loss of her loving husband, someone from her past suddenly appears on the islands. She’s forced to confront her own betrayal, which could forever destroy the relationship with her only daughter.
The Island Daughter is Book 3 in Love on the Island series but it can be enjoyed as a standalone read. It’s perfect for fans of Amanda Prowse, Elin Hilderbrand, and Elena Ferrante.
A shorter version of this blog post first appeared on New In Books Blog.