[670]: The Sunlight Pilgrims by Jenni Fagan

22399997 The Sunlight Pilgrims by Jenni Fagan
Hogarth | March 24th, 2016
Adult Fiction
Rating 4 out of 5 Stars


Set in a Scottish caravan park during a freak winter – it is snowing in Jerusalem, the Thames is overflowing, and an iceberg separated from the Fjords in Norway is expected to arrive off the coast of Scotland – THE SUNLIGHT PILGRIMS tells the story of a small Scottish community living through what people have begun to think is the end of times.

Bodies are found frozen in the street with their eyes open, euthanasia has become an acceptable response to economic collapse, schooling and health care are run primarily on a voluntary basis. But daily life carries on: Dylan, a refugee from panic-stricken London who is grieving for his mother and his grandmother, arrives in the caravan park in the middle of the night – to begin his life anew.


This book is tough to review. On the one hand, I’m somewhat disappointed because I assumed this book to be about panic and hysteria brought on by the coming ice age. On the other, I’m in awe of what Ms Fagan was able to accomplish here. Although there is an unfair balance between the two plot arches in this book, I was able to appreciate the sentiment.

I’ve always been a fan of apocalyptic books. I’m especially fond of reading (or watching) something close to reality like environmental and natural disasters. The Sunlight Pilgrims is about global warming and how it melted the icebergs. Consequently, it brought a cooling of the oceans, which then created  the weather phenomena that would usher in an Ice Age of biblical proportions. But if you’re expecting mayhem and chaos, you’d be disappointed like I was. We don’t see the panic that Hollywood is only too happy to show us in films. We don’t see people hoarding sweaters, food, and firewood. What we see are three people going about their lives not at all worried about the coldest, longest winter they’ll ever have.

In the forefront is Dylan who just lost his mum and gran almost simultaneously. They’d been his life along with a cinema that he’d had to give up because he could no longer afford it. His mum made provisions for him to live in a Scottish caravan community where he would meet Stella and Constance. In Clachan Fells, he hopes to deal with the grief of losing the two people who have been the sum of everything he was. Not knowing anything else but tending to a defunct small theatre would prove to be a struggle.

Constance is a fiercely independent woman who gives zero fucks about the gossips from her neighbours. From a long affair with two men that sometimes overlapped, to her daughter, Stella who once was a boy named, Cael, Constance marched to the beat of her own drum. Stella is transgender on the cusp of puberty. If she ever has any hopes of completing her change, she needs to start taking her hormone pills soon. But the coming ice age might impede the very thing she’d always wished for since she’d become aware of her true self.

These three people are survivors regardless of whether or not they survive what’s coming. Their false fearlessness convinced me that there was nothing to worry about; which is an odd thing to feel considering the scope of the impending doom.  The ice age was always in the periphery but the book spotlights humanity above all else. I am a newbie to Jenni Fagan’s writing (though, I own her other book, Panopticon). Well, let me tell you that this woman can write. The poet in her shines through with every beautiful imagery despite the bleakness of the situation. The ending was the kind of ending that left me scrambling and wishing there was more. Definitely more than the Acknowledgement page, that is.

  • Kara Lauren

    This sounds pretty good. I would probably be one of the people who kept going about their business not realizing the world was about to end. I can imagine it would be pretty cold living in a caravan though!

  • Ohh, that cover is sort of pretty 😀 I think I like it. Lovely review Joy. <3 So glad you enjoyed this one 😀 I also enjoy apocalyptic books. This one do seem pretty interesting 😀 Maybe one day. <3

  • I find apocalypse books frightens me more than dystopia. The world is ending. It’s a positive that you enjoyed her writing and her to execution of this book. The sunlight pilgrims is new to me . Tnx for the review, Joy

  • I love apocalyptic books too. Not sure how I feel about an open ending though. Sometimes those frustrate me.

  • I’m not sure how I feel about this one. From the premise, I would be expecting to see the panic and the disorder that would come along with the environmental disaster and would be wanting to see that. But it seems like the characters and their stories are the real magic to this novel, which does sound promising but at the same time still a bit vague as to how that works?

  • Melliane

    Interesting and it’s nice to have a good apocalyptic book like that mainly as I didn’t know about this one.

  • What has bugged me about a lot of apocalyptic books is sometimes it lacks humanity. I’m so glad that this one highlight it. I also think I’d like Constance. This sounds like a character I would love. This sounds like it has some good subtle elements to it that books in this genre lack. I might have to try this one! Brilly review.

  • Yeah I think this would definitely be interesting, especially with the background of doom but the somewhat calm main characters.

  • Jenny @ Supernatural Snark

    First, I LOVE that cover! So geometric and gorgeous:) Sounds like a solid read to even though you were left feeling just a touch disappointed. Thanks for putting this one (and this author) on my radar Joy!

  • I’ve been eyeing this one for quite some time now. SO great to know that you still ended up liking it even though it wasn’t exactly what you expected it 😀

  • I think apocalyptic books need a healthy dose of action!

  • I have this one on my list, so I’m waiting for it to become available at the library. I don’t want to buy it because I’m not sure I’ll like it.

  • Apocalyptic books don’t always have to be in your face survival, this sounds like the build-up was careful and thoughtful. The fact that these characters made you feel somewhat safe and they were survivors regardless of the situation, sounds like some pretty great writing. Glad this one was a bit of a surprise for you 🙂

  • I have seen this one at the library, but walked past it, I should have stopped

  • shootingstarsmag

    I do think I’d have liked a bit more SUSPENSE, so to speak, but at the same time, it’s still an intriguing premise and it seems like the characters are all done well. Thanks for your thoughts!

    -Lauren
    http://www.shootingstarsmag.blogspot.com

  • Jazmen

    Sounds entertaining, not sure I’m in the right mood for it right now though. I’ll have to add it to my ever growing TBR!

  • I love me some post-apocalyptic fiction. And sometimes, the “quieter” ones really work for me – the ones that focus on the human side rather than the madness and mayhem. Thank you for bringing this one to my attention, I hadn’t heard of it before!

  • I LOVE Dystopian books! But oddly enough, I didn’t really get into Divergent?? Odd.. I KNOW. But this one just seems like such a disappointment since you didn’t get the “apocalyptic” world feel that you wanted. 🙁 I’m disappointed that more of the “distraught people” and the “trying to pick up the pieces of their life” element wasn’t explored just a little bit more. 🙁

  • Oh, I’m not a fan of those kinds of endings. I need everything to be tied up in a nice little bow. Ha! This sounds like an interesting read though, very different from my normal reads but still, very interesting.

    Thanks for the review as always, Joy!

  • kindlemom1

    Books like these can be hard to review, especially if you liked it but it still wasn’t what you were expecting or even hoping for it to be. Glad it did work though and you did like it. It sounds super interesting!

  • Keertana @ Ivy Book Bindings

    I hate when an ending leaves me wanting more but I do love the sound of this book, otherwise. I think I’ll definitely check it out, despite the missing pages syndrome. Wonderful review, Joy! 🙂

  • Uh oh. Did it leave you hanging? A book like this to leave you without a true ending would bother me. Plus, I am like you, if the world is ending, I want to know what happens. But also, its good that the author is a good writer. It would be nice if you could have both good writing and an ending that really ends, in the same book! Did that make sense? Interesting review!