The Colony was longlisted for the Booker Prize in 2022. In Audrey Magee's lyrical and brooding fable, two outsiders visit a small island off the west coast of Ireland, with unforeseen and haunting consequences.

Mr Lloyd has decided to travel to the island by boat without engine - the authentic experience. Mr Masson will also soon be arriving for the summer. Both Englishman and Frenchman will strive to encapsulate the truth of this place - one in his paintings, the other with his faithful rendition of its speech, the language he hopes to preserve.

But the people who live on this rock - three miles wide and half a mile long - have their own views on what is being recorded, what is being taken and what is given in return. At the end of the summer, as the visitors head home, there will be a reckoning.

The Booker Prize 2022
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Audrey Magee

Audrey Magee

About the Author

Audrey Magee was longlisted for the Booker Prize in 2022. She is an Irish novelist and journalist, who lives and works in Wicklow. The Colony is her second novel.
More about Audrey Magee

Audrey Magee on The Colony

‘I tell the story from an Irish perspective, but the narrative echoes the experiences of other countries around the world where there is a relationship or the legacy of a relationship between the colonised and the coloniser.

‘The Colony is the southern perspective on the violence in Northern Ireland. And that violence is at the core of the novel as I set out seeking to understand the impact of that drumbeat of bombings, shootings and killings on the childhood and teenage years of my generation. It is about growing up, as James does in the book, with that pulse of violence in your life, that pulse that will determine what it is to be Irish when you travel abroad, what it is to speak the Irish language and what it is to wave the Irish flag.

‘It is 24 years since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, 100 years since the southern part of Ireland achieved independence from Britain; it seems to me a good time to draw breath, to pause and reflect on the impact of that Irish-British relationship on the ordinary people of Ireland.

Read the full interview here.

The Colony by Audrey Magee

What the judges said

‘The summer of 1979. Sectarian murders claim victims across Ireland. An idyllic island fishing community off the west coast becomes the laboratory in which Magee dissects the gulf between what Ireland is and how the rest of the world wants to fantasise it.’

What the critics said

Jonathan Myerson, The Guardian

‘Magee’s prose is always luminous, lyrical and pungent: sometimes sliding into vertical columns of one-word paragraphs, sometimes dwelling on the minutiae of rabbit gutting or the smell of Prussian blue, and yet always remaining ever so slightly distanced […] And it would be wrong to say the book rises to a climax: in true Irish tradition, the story shrinks back to its status quo ante…Lloyd sails back “to Freud, to Auerbach, to Bacon,” JP’s professorship is in the bag and that very special Irish melancholy settles again over the island.’

Kirkus Review

‘A finely wrought, multilayered tale with the lucidity of a parable. The pace is unhurried, the tone often poetic as the author assembles location, character, and identity, but Magee’s path is both subtle and steely, lending a sense of inevitability as opinions harden, trusts are betrayed, and old patterns reassert themselves, devastatingly.’

Allan Massie, The Scotsman

‘Some readers will find the novel tiresomely slow, and indeed it is slow. It demands close attention, but deserves it as a carefully written and serious work of art should. Audrey Magee is a serious and careful writer, with the gift for extracting much from little. It says much for her skill that a novel with two such disagreeable and indeed tedious characters as Lloyd and Masson should not only hold one’s interest but do so to such an extent that one finds that interest deepening the further ones reads. Magee’s first novel was shortlisted for various prizes, among them France’s Festival du Premier Roman. With The Colony, she has comfortably cleared the Second Novel Hurdle that brings so many writers tumbling disappointingly to the ground.’

Julia Jackson, Readings

‘This book is exceptionally good, with great depth and empathy, and highly prescient themes addressing colonialism, conflicting notions about art, language and cultural traditions, as well as age versus youth.’

John Self, Airmail

‘One of The Colony’s greatest qualities is how Magee keeps herself out of the story – we never feel her thumb on the scales – so we get to know the islanders not only slowly, but deeply … will not appeal to everyone – strong flavors never do. The violence is upsetting, the two men maddening. Some may find the story slow, but even when not much happens, Magee is tightening the net towards a sequence of confrontations. Aside from the central themes, her book contains multitudes – on families, on men and women, on rural communities – with much of it just visible on the surface, like the flicker of a smile or a shark in the water.’

The Colony by Audrey Magee