A Swift Pure Cry by Siobhan Dowd

A Swift Pure Cry

Written by Siobhan Dowd

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The Lovereading4Kids comment

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+)

‘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.

Siobhan sadly only wrote 4 books in total before her tragic death from cancer in 2007. They were Solace of the Road, Bog Child, A Swift Pure Cry and The London Eye Mystery but her memory lives on in a Trust that has been set up in her name as well as through her writing.


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.


Movingly written, this is a sad but not a dismal story, given Shell's resilient personality and the support she gets from a generous-hearted priest. This debut novel is a fine and memorable achievement: it never sells its characters short and always stays close to what was thought to have happened at the time -- Nick Tucker Independent It's a beautifully written, lyrical story -- Tony Bradman PEN In a densely woven tapestry of poetic language, sensations, and childhood experience, Dowd's characters stumble through life, bewildered and bereaved, reviving feelings and emotions that are most usually pushed into the back recesses of the mind -- Jamila Gavin Guardian This story is told with the innocence and naivety of a young girl and leaves the reader to feel the true emotion behind it. This story will have you hooked; you will go through the usual emotions a well-written book should stir up - laughter, sadness, anger, and compassion Irish Post A superb first novel, beautifully written, deeply moving and full of heartbreak. Siobhan Dowd writes without judgement but with enormous sympathy and understanding -- Julia Eccleshare Love Reading 4 Kids

About the Author

Siobhan Dowd

'The protagonists in my stories aren’t human rights heroes in the conventional sense. They are ordinary people living in England and Ireland who find extraordinary ways to overcome the difficulties in their lives and for me that’s the essence of any good story: it’s where the ordinary meets the extraordinary.' – Siobhan Dowd

'In 2007 Siobhan Dowd was voted one of the twenty-five British writers for the future (only three were children’s writers). Everybody should read her.' –David Fickling, the author's publisher

Siobhan Dowd was born in London to Irish parents. She spent much of her youth visiting the family cottage in Aglish, County Waterford, and later the family home in Wicklow Town and went on to study Classics at Oxford.

A Swift Pure Cry, Siobhan's first novel, was published by David Fickling Books, in March 2006. In May 2007 it won many children’s book awards including the prestigious Brandford Boase Award. Her second novel, The London Eye Mystery, was published by David Fickling Books on 7 June 2007. Two further novels were published posthumously in 2008 and 2009, Bog Child, appeared in February 2008, and her fourth novel, Solace of the Road, in February 2009. The former won the prestigious Carnegie Medal.

Tragically, Siobhan died at the age of 47, in August 2007; she had been receiving treatment for advanced breast cancer for three years. Her memory lives on in The Siobhan Dowd Trust, set up to help disadvantaged children in the UK and Ireland discover and experience the joy of reading. Although she was ill, Siobhan personally and energetically supervised its foundation; it was one of the very last things on her mind and clearly, for her, the most pressing cause in our society today.

Siobhan was a writing phenomenon: discovering that she was fatally ill, she put pen to paper and produced four of the most remarkable novels for children you could wish for. Her loss to the world of children’s writing is a tragedy. But it is utterly characteristic that Siobhan should, at the end, put her mind unerringly to the most deserving group of all: the young reader. Siobhan realized that our literary culture - critics, bookshops, agents, publishing, libraries, schools - depends ultimately on the reader. And, of readers, the young reader is the most vulnerable. And amongst young readers, the disadvantaged young reader is the most deprived of all. Siobhan, at the last, and with all her usual clarity, decided to help them. And you can help them too.

The aims of the Trust are simple and direct:

To take stories to our children without stories.

The Siobhan Dowd Trust Books
A Swift Pure Cry
The London Eye Mystery
Bog Child
Solace of the Road

The Trustees

Please log on to www.siobhandowdtrust.com for more details about the Trust, about how to donate and about how to apply for support.

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Book Info


320 pages
Interest Age: From 12 from 12


Siobhan Dowd
More books by Siobhan Dowd

Author's Website



Random House Children's Books

Publication date

4th January 2007




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