The Island House

The Island House

A Novel

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From the internationally bestselling author of The Dressmaker comes an unforgettable novel about a young archaeologist who unearths ancient secrets, a tragic romance, and Viking treasure on a remote Scottish island.

One warm, rainy summer, Freya Dane, a PhD candidate in archaeology, arrives on the ancient Scottish island of Findnar. Estranged as a child from her recently dead father, himself an archaeologist, Freya yearns to understand more about the man, his work on the island, and why he left her mother so many years ago. It seems Michael Dane uncovered much of Findnar’s Viking and Christian past through his search for an illusive tomb, and Freya continues his work. The discoveries she is destined to make, far greater than her father’s, will teach her the true meaning of love and of loss.

AD 800, and a wandering comet, an omen of evil, shines down on Findnar. The fears of the locals are justified. In a Viking raid, Signy, a Pictish girl, loses her entire family. Taken in by survivors of the island’s Christian community, she falls in love with an injured Viking youth left behind by the raiders and is cast out. Confused and bereft, eventually she becomes a nun, a decision that will unleash tragedy as she is plunged into the heart of a war between three religions. Forced to choose among her ancestors’ animist beliefs, her adopted faith, and the man she loves, Signy will call out to Freya across the centuries. Ancient wrongs must be laid to rest in the present and the mystery at the heart of Findnar’s violent past exposed.

In time the comet will return, a link between past and present. But for these two women, time does not exist. For them, the past will never die. It has waited for them both.
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  • Atria Books | 
  • 464 pages | 
  • ISBN 9780743294430 | 
  • June 2012
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Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

SHE FIRST saw her house from the sea.

It lay on the cliff above the sheltered cove, long and gray with a roof that was darker than the granite walls. Close by was the crumbling stump of another, much greater building. Above both was the bulk of a hill, a sentinel.

Freya Dane stood up in the open dinghy. She clutched the gunwale as they rounded the headland. There was the crescent of the landing beach beneath the cliff, and she could see the path to the house. The place matched the pictures. She had arrived.

What had she done?

The dinghy plunged over a wave crest, and Freya sat down with a... see more

Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for The Island House includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.


Introduction

Freya Dane, a PhD candidate in archaeology, arrives on the island of Findnar off the northern coast of Scotland. After years of estrangement from her father—an archaeologist who recently died—Freya has come to the island to find out more about him and his work. As Freya explores the island and her father’s research, she discovers much more than just the roots of Findnar’s history. In AD 800 a young girl named Signy from the local Pictish tribe is taken in by the surviving members of the Christian community who have settled on the island of Findnar. As Signy grows up behind the walls of the monastery, she finds herself at the center of the clash between the island’s three religious cultures—caught between her adopted Christian faith, her native Pictish religion, and the Viking man she loves. Alternating between present-day and ninth-century Scotland, The Island House is an intertwined story of fascinating discoveries and two women connected to each other over centuries.


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