Paperback review: Island Wife, By Judy Fairbairns

 

At the age of 19 Judy Fairbairns met her husband, Alex, who whisked her off to a remote Hebridean island to run a guesthouse. This memoir tells the story of 40 years on the Tapsalteerie estate (the name is Scots for “topsy-turvy”), during which Judy raised five children, co-founded a pioneering whale-watching business, and belatedly found her calling as a painter.

Fairbairn’s descriptions of the landscape around Tapsalteerie are a bit overwrought – “The island is not like other places. It has a different heartbeat. The first time I stepped onto the black rocks of the shore, something deep inside me knew I was home” – as if she is trying too hard to convince us of her wisdom in sticking it out. But on the difficulties of marriage and motherhood she can be bracingly and movingly candid.

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