Book Review: The Secret of Inis Mór – Liam O’Neill

The Secret of Inis Mór ebook cover
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Advance copy provided by Reedsy Discovery.

In Liam O’Neill’s debut in magical realism, Connor grudgingly returns to the island of his birth, Inis Mór, thirty years after running away to Australia with his mother. Amidst a crumbling family and business, strange poetic voices and his dying grandmother’s urgent message compel him to travel to this secluded Irish island.

By the time he arrives, his grandmother has died, but not before leaving him a cottage and boat. As Connor tries to figure out what to do with himself, he meets an old man who offers to help renovate the boat. While they do so, Connor learns about his family’s special heritage at the core of The Secret of Inis Mór: the gift of storytelling.

Compelling Protagonist

Connor – or John, as he’s renamed in Australia – starts off as a typical businessman who can’t understand how he ruined his own personal and professional life. His evolution is quite satisfying, making his story an interesting one to follow.

His relationships with other characters in the book are just as compelling and give the plot a nice human touch. All of these are important qualities in effective characterisation.

Emotive Style and Themes

There are wonderful messages about following your heart and appreciating your gifts, whether they’re in sailing or music. The narrative is a mix of prose and poetry, all well-written and smoothly flowing into each other. This gives the whole story of The Secret of Inis Mór a romantic vibe.

Irish Culture and Mythology

As an extra treat, Irish mythology is weaved into the plot. It invites you to question how much of these legends are just fiction, especially in connection to Connor’s story. So, there’s enough surreal intrigue to give a classic tale of self-discovery a refreshing magical realism spin.


The Secret of Inis Mór is a great read. It smoothly jumps between past and present, myths and reality, drama and action. The grounded structure, good characterisation, and quality of writing give everything a steady, engaging flow. The story is moving and thought-provoking in equal measure, while also teaching you about boat building, Irish culture, and taking care of your soul.

Buy your copy: Amazon

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