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A Swift Pure Cry by Siobhan Dowd

A Swift Pure Cry

NewGen - YA Fiction   
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Winner of the Branford Boase Award 2007. A superb first novel, beautifully written, deeply moving and full of heartbreak. When Shell Talent’s mother dies everything around her begins to fall to pieces. Tired of looking after her younger brother and sister and bored by the routines of school and church, Shell skips school and hangs around with her friends smoking and cracking jokes and looking for chances that will confirm their growing up. But what follows is not a simple transition into adulthood but the tragedy of Shell’s hidden pregnancy and the stillbirth of her baby. Siobhan Dowd writes without judgement but with enormous sympathy and understanding capturing Shell’s confusion and the hypercritical and chaotic thinking of the small Irish community in which she is growing up. (12+)

What the judges’ said:

‘this novel stood out for its entertaining and expertly crafted style: a fluent, lyrical sprightliness which leavens tragic events with humanity and even, in places, humour’

This is beautiful, dramatic writing that deals sensitively with a tough subject. Set in Ireland, the story follows the characters as they stumble through life’s challenges, making the best of tough circumstances. The language is simple, lyrical, and evocative; the storytelling humorous but never sentimental. The take on religion is not predictable and the outcome extraordinarily life affirming.

If you like Siobhan Dowd you might also like to read books by Annabel Pitcher.


A Swift Pure Cry by Siobhan Dowd

After Shell's mother dies, her religious father descends into alcoholic mourning and Shell is left to care for her younger brother and sister. Her only release from the harshness of everyday life comes from her budding spiritual friendship with a naive young priest, and most importantly, her developing relationship with childhood friend, Declan.

About the Author

Siobhan Dowd

Siobhan Dowd was born to Irish parents and brought up in London. She spent much of her youth visiting the family cottage in Aglish, County Waterford and later the family home in Wicklow Town.

She attended a Catholic grammar school in south London and then gained a degree in Classics at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford University. After a short stint in publishing, she joined the writer's organisation PEN, initially as a researcher for its Writers in Prison Committee.

She went on to be Program Director of PEN American Center's Freedom-to-Write Committee in New York City. Her work here included founding and leading the Rushdie Defense Committee USA and travelling to Indonesia and Guatemala to investigate local human rights conditions for writers. During her seven-year spell in New York, Siobhan was named one of the "top 100 Irish-Americans" by Irish-America Magazine and AerLingus, for her global anti-censorship work. On her return to the UK, Siobhan co-founded English PEN's readers and writers programme, which takes authors into schools in socially deprived areas, as well as prisons, young offender's institutions and community projects.

During 2004, Siobhan served as Deputy Commissioner for Children's Rights in Oxfordshire, working with local government to ensure that statutory services affecting children's lives conform with UN protocols.

A Swift Pure Cry, Siobhan's first novel, was published by David Fickling Books, an imprint of Random House Children's Books, in March 2006. In May 2007, it won the Eilis Dillon award in Ireland for a first-time children's author. It was also long-listed for the Guardian Children's Book Prize and short-listed for the Booktrust Teenage Fiction Prize and the Waterstones Children's Book Prize.

In May 2007, Siobhan was named one of "25 authors of the future" by Waterstones Books as part of the latter's 25th anniversary celebrations. Siobhan died on 21st August 2007 aged 47. She had been receiving treatment for advanced breast cancer for 3 years and, did not go gentle into that good night.

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Book Info

Publication date

1st July 2010


Siobhan Dowd

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Random House Children's Books






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