New Island Books - 25 Years a-Growing

The Lonely Sea and Sky

The Lonely Sea and Sky
  • The Lonely Sea and Sky by Dermot Bolger


‘Bolger does it masterfully, as always. He has been prying open the Irish ribcage since he was sixteen years old…. Pound for pound, word for word, I’d have Bolger represent us in any literary Olympics.’
- Colum McCann, Irish Independent

Myles Foley gripped my soaked jumper. ‘Before his ship sank he was a Nazi: now he’s a drowning sailor. Out here, we’re all sailors. Your father and grandfather understood that. Are you going to disgrace their memory?’

 Part historical fiction, part extraordinary coming-of-age tale, The Lonely Sea and Sky charts the maiden voyage of fourteen-year-old Jack Roche aboard a tiny Wexford ship, the Kerlogue, on a treacherous wartime journey to Portugal.

After his father’s ship is sunk on this same route, Jack must go to sea to support his family – swapping Wexford’s small streets for Lisbon’s vibrant boulevards: where every foreigner seems to be a refugee or a spy, and where he falls under the spell of Kateřina, a Czech girl surviving on her wits.

Bolger’s new novel is based on a real-life rescue in 1943, when the Kerlogue’s crew risked their lives to save 168 drowning German sailors – members of the navy that had killed Jack’s father. Forced to choose who to save and who to leave behind, the Kerlogue grows so dangerously overloaded that no one knows if they will survive amid the massive Biscay waves.

A brilliant portrayal of those unarmed Irish ships that sailed alone through hazardous waters; of young romance and a boy encountering a world where every experience is intense and dangerous, this is Bolger’s most spellbinding novel, and the work of a master storyteller who is one of Ireland’s best-known novelists, playwrights and poets.



‘It is a full-bodied barnstormer, a coming-of-age tale of wanderlust ideal for readers aged 12 to 92. It is an ocean-going epic of sacrifice and derring-do against the backdrop of war-torn Europe. It is a paean to a fledgling Ireland trying to find its feet as the ground moves beneath it. It is all these things and yet it releases submerged thematic buoys to the surface in that effortless Bolger manner. You can only do this if your craft has been carved to precision by time.’ – Irish Independent

‘Bolger’s rendering of the transformation of ordinary men, who have chosen a risky way of life, into truly heroic figures makes for engaging reading.’ – The Irish Times 

‘Bolger’s unforced style sings with colour, humour and excitement. But it’s the way he smuggles “the bigger themes” into the narrative hull that grants this historical fiction “modern classic” status.’ – Irish Independent

‘For those who love a whopping good yarn, The Lonely Sea and Sky is a must. It has echoes of Treasure Island and as a summer read, ranks with the best. It is a book the reader regrets finishing.’ Des Kenny, The Galway Advertiser

‘Bolger creates a personal, heartrending and atmospheric tale of the lives of these Irish sailors during a period of great international conflict… Dermot Bolger has done them justice in producing such a finely crafted and extremely readable tale which brings their story to life.’ – Lonesome Reader

‘That mother of life, that coffin of death, the ocean will continue to compel writers to their task. The Lonely Sea and Sky is a beautiful novel that will suit all ages.’ – By the Book Reviews 

Praise for Dermot Bolger

‘A fierce and terrifyingly uncompromising talent … serious and provocative.’ – Nick Hornby, The Sunday Times

‘Joyce, O’Flaherty, Brian Moore, John McGahern, a fistful of O’Briens … Dermot Bolger is of the same ilk … an exceptional literary gift.’ – Independent UK

‘Whether he’s capturing the slums of Dublin or the pain of a missed opportunity in love, Bolger’s writing simply sings.’ – Sunday Business Post

‘One of our most mature and courageous writers.’ – The Irish Times

‘On every page, insight and illumination are found, as might be expected from one of Ireland’s most perceptive writers.’ – The Times Literary Supplement

‘Bolger isn’t meditating on regret, love, moral fibre, greed and carpe diem – he’s setting the record straight on them… This is storytelling that flows deep and soundly, and brims with a hard-earned wisdom… sublime.’ – Sunday Independent

About the Author

Dermot Bolger is one of Ireland’s best known writers. His twelve previous novels include The Journey Home, Father’s Music, The Valparaiso Voyage, The Family on Paradise Pier, A Second Life, New Town Soul, The Fall of Ireland and, most recently, Tanglewood. His first play, The Lament for Arthur Cleary, received the Samuel Beckett Award and an Edinburgh Fringe First Award.

Also a poet, his ninth collection of poems, The Venice Suite: A Voyage Through Loss, was published in 2012 and his New and Selected Poems, That Which is Suddenly Precious, appeared from New Island in 2015. He devised the best-selling collaborative novels, Finbar’s Hotel and Ladies Night at Finbar’s Hotel, and has edited numerous anthologies, including The Picador Book of Contemporary Irish Fiction. Dermot Bolger also writes for most of Ireland’s leading newspapers, and in 2012 was named Commentator of the Year at the Irish Newspaper awards.



Dermot Bolger


Trade Paperback





Release Date

May 2016


Additional Information

Weight .354 g
Dimensions .235 × .158 × .20 mm


There are no reviews yet, would you like to submit yours?

SKU: 9781848405035 - Need Help? Contact Us Leave Feedback

Categories: , , , , , .