The Sunlight Pilgrims

The Sunlight Pilgrims

Book - 2016
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It's November of 2020, and the world is freezing over. Each day colder than the last. There's snow in Israel, the Thames is overflowing, and an iceberg separated from the Fjords in Norway is expected to drift just off the coast of Scotland. As ice water melts into the Atlantic, frenzied London residents evacuate by the thousands for warmer temperatures down south. But not Dylan. Grieving and ready to build life anew, he heads north to bury his mother's and grandmother's ashes on the Scottish islands where they once lived. Hundreds of miles away, twelve-year-old Estella and her survivalist mother, Constance, scrape by in the snowy, mountainous Highlands, preparing for a record-breaking winter. Living out of a caravan, they spend their days digging through landfills, searching for anything with restorative and trading value. When Dylan arrives in their caravan park in the middle of the night, life changes course for Estella and Constance. Though the weather worsens, his presence brings a new light to daily life, and when the ultimate disaster finally strikes, they'll all be ready.
Publisher: New York, New York :, Hogarth,, 2016.
Edition: First American edition.
Copyright Date: ©2016
ISBN: 9780553418873
Characteristics: 272 pages ;,25 cm.


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Sep 03, 2016

Very fresh and new concept. Many serious themes were explored in this novel rather than being implied. Compelling and intense, this was an engaging novel that is sure to draw readers in along with the ride.

Aug 23, 2016

The end-of times, climate apocalypse in The Sunlight Pilgrims puts all our climate change anxieties front and center. It’s November 2020 and the beginnings of a new ice age has descended on the plant. Weather patterns have shifted erratically: the Gulf Stream has slowed and cooled, the arctic is melting and its gargantuan icebergs have broken free (one of them is making its way to Scotland), and all over the world coastal cities are deluged. Jenni Fagan goes the other direction with this reality: rather than focus on the environmental and economic fallout, the recriminations and panic, Fagan gives us a glimpse of the ordinary lives of three people: a survivalist, Constance Fairbairn, and her transgender daughter, Stella, and a London refugee, Dylan McRae.

Dylan ran an art-house movie theatre in Soho with his mother and grandmother, who recently passed away. The cinema has lost money and is being foreclosed, and so Dylan decides to pack up his mom and granny (their ashes) and some meager belongings and travel north to Clachan Falls in Scotland to a mobile home community where is mother used to live. It’s a motley crew of people who live there, including Constance and her daughter. Dylan, Constance, and Stella meet and soon bond.

The Sunlight Pilgrims moves at glacial but steady pace and switches viewpoints between the three characters. Where the book shines is how the prose is filled with intricate detail reflecting the growing threat of winter. You’ll get some of the best prose describing snow and ice. I read this largely through a heat wave in early August, and it was such a contrasting visceral experience, and I swear I could feel the chill seep into my bones. These characters battle an encroaching doom with poignancy and dignity; they fight for survival, even while keeping a weary watch on the temperature gauge, which keeps dropping and dropping. They battle personal demons too, which provides most of the novel’s drama. Finally, the transgender angle is wonderfully done. Stella is a firecracker and one of the most interesting characters to read. You can’t help but root for her as she grapples with her gender identity, her body’s transformation set flush against the world’s. The overall tone of The Sunlight Pilgrims is one of melancholy but not despair. It crackles with life and warmth, even as the world freezes over.

Jul 27, 2016

Jenni Fagan has interesting things to say about climate change, transsexuality and survival. The writing and imagery is at times at little repetitive and the novel is not as good as her debut, "Panopticon" but is nevertheless a worthy read.

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