The House on the Shore (cover) Eilís Dillon
The House on the Shore

Jim O'Malley's Uncle Martin lives in a dilapidated old mansion on the Connemara coast, but when Jim arrives there the house is deserted except for a large black cat and a multitude of spiders. Jim is puzzled by the local people's obvious dislike of his uncle, and the air of mystery surrounding the old man is heightened by the appearance of two strange foreign sailors and Jim's discovery of a cache of guns in a friend's outhouse. A fast-moving succession of strange events leads to an exciting climax, in which Jim and his friend Roddy have to pit their wits against both the foreign intruders and the local community.


"A wild Irish tale; mysterious, fast-moving and exciting." (Time and Tide)

"From the time when Jim comes walking barefoot down the mountain to the strange village by the sea to find his uncle, to the final life and death chase in sailing boats across the night sea, there is no let-up of the tension. It is fine story-telling." (Spectator)

"This is an exciting story with an authentic Irish background reminding us in its beginning of Robert Louis Stevenson's 'Kidnapped'" (Patricia Lynch, Irish Press)

"A tale of that splendid kind in which the incredible still keeps within the bounds of possibility." (Naomi Lewis, The Observer)

"Miss Dillon has conveyed vividly the wildness and strangeness of a primitive part of Ireland, relating it perfectly to her wild, strange story." (The New York Times Book Review)

More reviews after this extract
from the opening pages ....

1. I Go to Cloghanmore

After a night of heavy rain, I left the hut in which I had sheltered and came down the mountain at last to my uncle's house. The track ran with water, shining cold and clear as if it were already winter. Then the sun rose higher and the light became a soft gold. Little white clouds in a deep blue sky were reflected in the still pools on either side of me. Away down before me the grey-blue sea moved restlessly, as if it were shaking off the purple haze that rolled back and back beyond the horizon as I watched.

I was very hungry, for last night had seen the end of the food I had brought with me from home. The September air put an edge on my appetite, and I hurried down the little path, keeping a sharp eye out for a house where I might have breakfast. Presently the path took a turn, and then I saw the white gable of a cottage huddled against the mountain to my right. A short stony boreen led in to the cottage. There was no gate, and I paused only to observe that a feather of smoke came from the chimney before starting towards it.

The boreen took me to the front door, which looked down towards the sea. The half-door was shut, and I looked over the top of it into the kitchen. A fat old woman in a red petticoat and a plaid head-shawl was stooping over the fire, raking out a red coal and putting a big brown teapot sitting on it. Sweet blue turf-smoke drifted through the room. The kitchen table was under the window by the door, and a white-haired man sat at the head of it, leaning back like a lord waiting for his breakfast. A huge pile of soda-bread was in front of him, and a pat of butter with a cow's head imprinted on it lay on a cabbage-leaf beside the bread. His big earthenware mug had a deep band of blue flowers all round the top. It was so like the scene I knew would be in my kitchen at home at this same hour that I almost imagined myself back again at the other side of the mountain with my journey still before me.

More reviews ....

"This is a story in the real R.L.S. tradition, packed with suspense, action and courage." (Good Housekeeping)

"Hair-raising adventure by a writer of outstanding talent." (The Commonweal)

"A splendid adventure story." (Social and Personal)

"A gay and grand tale." (The Montgomery (Ala.) Advertiser).

"Excitement, suspense, atmosphere and an engaging young hero." (Irish Independent)

"A first-rate story." (The Irish Times)

"A fine yarn." (Queen)

"A story of many thrills." (Manchester Guardian)

"This is a remarkably successful story of atmosphere, in an Irish setting." (Times Literary Supplement)

"Delicate touches and fine writing." (Belfast Telegraph)

"An adventure story written with a sense of atmosphere and suspense, and also with distinction and beauty." (Ideal Home)

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