Author Photo Eilís Dillon
Books for Teenagers

Eilís Dillon wrote fifteen books for adolescent readers. The first of these, The Lost Island (still in print 66 years on) established her exceptional skill in creating a sense of place — the West of Ireland, on the wild Atlantic coast — inhabited by a self-reliant community that struggles across the generations with harsh conditions and an unsympathetic world. All of this is handled with great warmth and humour. Most of the books set in the West are classic adventures featuring brave young heroes, tough old men, and strong-minded resourceful women. Two of the books recreate the classical world of ancient Rome, while the last one she wrote moves to a seemingly hopeless location: Hungary during the Holocaust. Even in the midst of catastrophe, shreds of hope can still endure.

The Lost Island
London, Faber, 1952;
New York, Funk and Wagnalls, 1954
New York Review Books, 2019
The lost island is a mystery. No one knows where it is - or whether it exists. But everyone knows that some great reward is to be found there by anyone brave enough to seek it. Michael's father set out to find the lost island but never returned. Now it is Michael's turn. He gets a boat and with his friend Joe sets off across unknown seas to try to discover the island's secret.

"A thoroughgoing adventure story with all the details of sailing, place and character brushed in delicately. Plenty of action and a dour sense of humour. Unreservedly recommended." (The Times, London)
" ... as original and as full of apprehensive suspense as a Graham Greene entertainment for grown-ups." (New Statesman)
"The book gathers speed and holds the reader enthralled to its conclusion." (The Horn Book)
"Full of irresistible magic" (Bristol Observer)
"Simply a good writer....Loving and understanding people ... as exciting as adventure stories should be." (The Times Literary Supplement)
"One can almost get the tang of salt and hear the waves breaking on a rocky shore." (The Irish Independent)
"A strange message and tales told by an old man send young Michael on a dangerous quest ... Recommended." (Library Journal)

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The San Sebastian
London, Faber, 1953;
New York, Funk and Wagnalls, 1954;
Dublin, Poolbeg, 1996
Early one morning after a night of storms young Pat Hernon wakes to find a beautiful ship floating on the sea below the window of his cottage high on the Connemara shore. The San Sebastian is deserted and, following the custom of those parts, Pat lays claim to her as his own. Little does he guess, however, that the mysterious ship is to draw him into a series of hair-raising adventures, taking him all the way to Brittany and back, before her secret is revealed.

"Of those I have read, the best, I think, is Eilís Dillon's San Sebastian, which has a young hero whose lonely self-reliance would not disgrace R.L. Stevenson, and a fantastically imagined adventure excitingly told in an atmosphere that never loses the poetry of the ocean, washing the coast of Ireland." (The Observer)
"It has the strength of legend as well as the stamp of life ... sound, solid, actual, as well as strange and wild." (Times Literary Supplement)

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The House on the Shore
London, Faber, 1955;
New York, Funk and Wagnalls, 1956;
Beaver Books (Hamlyn), 1977
O'Brien Press,
Jim O'Malley's Uncle Martin lives in a dilapidated old mansion on the Connemara coast, but when Jim arrives there the house is deserted except for a large black cat and a multitude of spiders...

"From the time when Jim comes walking barefoot down the mountain to the strange village by the sea to find his uncle, to the final life and death chase in sailing boats across the night sea, there is no let-up of the tension. It is fine story-telling." (Spectator)
"A wild Irish tale; mysterious, fast-moving and exciting" (Time and Tide)

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The Island of Horses
London, Faber, 1956;
New York, Funk and Wagnalls, 1957;
London, Puffin Books, 1976;
Faber paperback, c.1990.
New York Review Books, 2019
No one ever went to the Island of Horses. It was said to be unlucky, and when there was a storm the island shone with a strange light and the Inishrone people used to say that the wild Spanish horses were trying to land there. Pat's grandmother used to tell tales about a long silver strand and a hidden valley ...
Chosen in The Sunday Times as one of "The 99 Best Books for Children".

"A thumping good read." (The Irish Press)
"A very good story about two boys who set out to explore a deserted island off the Connemara coast, and about the adventures that follow. All are well within the bounds of probability ... The people are real, the Irish background rings true, and there is a hard, spare poetry in the telling of the story." (The Guardian)
"An entrancing book ... I was able momentarily to recapture that dreamlike quality of enjoyment which marked my reading forty years ago." (The Listener)
"As exciting as a trip in a currach on a heavy sea." (The Irish Independent)

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The Singing Cave
London, Faber, 1959;
New York, Funk and Wagnalls, 1960
Dublin, Poolbeg Press, 1991
A cave on a Western island hides a Viking ship and its hoard. When the treasure is stolen, two boys, Pat and his friend Tom Joyce, have to sail all the way to Brittany to save it --- and themselves.

"Exciting and authentic." (The Irish Press)
"A delightful story ." (Belfast Newsletter)
"A first-class book." (Yorkshire Post)
"She has surpassed herself this time in richness of characterization and in masterly evocation of a special way of life." (The New York Herald Tribune)
"One of the finest books of its kind that I have ever been lucky enough to read." (Tyler White, Eastern Daily Press)
"A wonderfully atmospheric story." (Children's Literature Association of Ireland Guide)
"The Singing Cave is another Irish tale, told at times with very great power. Miss Dillon excels in atmosphere, in big scenes of action, and in the creation of larger-than-life grotesque and convincing characters. She has never displayed these qualities more strongly than in The Singing Cave. This is an island story, and there is no moment when the reader is not aware of the sound and motion of the sea. One is conscious always, too, that Barrinish is not only an island but also a community. There is a fine and exciting plot about the discovery of Viking relics ... but the real theme is the interdependence of people working close to the earth and the sea and the real hero is not Pat, fine boy though he is, or his grandfather, but the island of Barrinish." (Times Literary Supplement)

The Fort of Gold
London, Faber, 1961;
New York, Funk and Wagnalls, 1961
The new schoolmaster on the island of Inishdara is a strange man, and the criminals who follow are even stranger What has drawn them here? Is it the Fort of Gold, also known as the Fort of Sorrow, where, in days gone by, the Spaniards were killed to a man, buried there among the old stones, and their gold with them?

"A gripping and, at times, weird adventure." (Maev Conway, The Irish Press)
"Events grow more and more thrilling yet never seem improbable or melodramatic" (Times Literary Supplement)
"Stirring as is the plot, it's the superb characterization that will be etched on the reader's memory, the feeling for the island that makes it very real, the cadence of the storyteller's voice that will softly echo long after the book is closed." (The Cleveland Press)

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The Coriander
London, Faber, 1963
New York, Funk and Wagnalls, 1964
Dublin, Poolbeg Press, 1992, IR£4.99. ISBN 1-85371-214-0
The island of Inishgillan was so remote that no doctor would agree to live there. Then came the wreck of the Coriander and the rescue of an injured man. When the islanders found he was a doctor, the temptation to keep him on the island was too much. Then there was the feud with the neighbouring island ...

"I must commend the original theme of this powerful tale." (Naomi Lewis Recommends, Smith's Trade News)
"Eilís Dillon's 'The Coriander' will find its place with books like 'Treasure Island' on the list of classics." (Irish Press)
"A tale filled with excitement and suspense, lightened at times by sparkling humour. It is, however, the sensitivity of the author to the moral values which undergird the island society and the response these values demand from the individual that give this book its unique worth. (New York Times)

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The Cruise of the Santa Maria
London, Faber, 1967;
New York, Funk and Wagnalls, 1967;
Dublin, O'Brien Press, 1991
John sets sail in the new boat his grandfather made, although the building of it was completed by a red-headed woman, a sure sign of bad luck. The long voyage he has to undertake with two other boys puts the boat and its crew to the test.

"Splendid, thrilling and beautiful." (The Scotsman)
"Beautifully done ... one of her best." (Times Literary Supplement)
"Builds up to an almost unbearable suspense. (Australian Broadcasting Commission)
"It could happen today, it could have happened centuries ago, it is splendid and drilling and beautiful. Full of courage, kindness and humour: a glorious book." (The Scotsman)
"Strange and suspenseful." (Books Ireland)

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The Seals
London, Faber, 1968;
New York, Funk and Wagnalls, 1969
The Irish war of independence is raging on the mainland. An islandman, Roddy Conneeley, has to be rescued from the Black and Tans. His nephew Pat sets out on a stormy sea, accompanied by his best friend Mike Hernon and Jerry Lynskey, grandson of an informer. He knows they will be safe, as the Conneeleys are descended from seals and none of them has ever drowned ....
"A gripping adventure story." (The Kerryman)
"Their survival of dangers on both land and sea makes a thrilling adventure story, while the richly detailed background renders it the more exceptional. One of the author's very best." (The Horn Book Magazine)
"A raw, salt, exciting tale, rich in character and rhythm." (Robert Nye, the Scotsman)
"Exciting and convincing ... Lovely descriptions of the sea." (Catherine Storr, New Statesman)

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A Herd of Deer
London, Faber, 1969;
New York, Funk and Wagnalls, 1970
When Michael Joyce's deer begin to vanish from his Connemara farm, he hires young Peter Regan to investigate, under cover of a camping holiday ....

"A serious and enjoyable novel ... resembles the popular action tales of John Buchan." (Canberra Times)
"A dusky, timeless, tranquil, boyish rugged experience." (Virginia Kirkus service)
"An excellent book" (Times Educational Supplement)
"Mature and amusing." (the Australian)
"It is always a pleasure to read Eilís Dillon, who tells her stories in enchanting language ... This is a beautifully paced book, memorable for the appreciation of every human relationship it touches on with surety and warmth" (New Statesman)
"It will be treasured in the library of any youngster lucky enough to get it" (Hugh McKinley, Athens Daily Post)

Living in Imperial Rome
(in America: Rome under the Emperors)

London, Faber, 1974;
Nashville, Nelson, 1975
Dublin, O'Brien Press
A convincing reconstruction of daily life in the ancient world, as seen thrpough the eyes of four Roman families.

"Just the book to have about on that Roman holiday" (Oxford Times)
"Very interesting, very well-written." (Pól Ó Muirí, Andersonstown News)
"A child could study classical civilisation for years and come out with less understanding than this book would give in a few hours' reading." (Books Ireland)
"The author must be congratulated on the wealth of physical detail she has accumulated about imperial Rome" (Times Educational Supplement)font>
"Lively, all-round account of a complete society" (Children's Books of the Year)

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The Shadow of Vesuvius
New York, Nelson, 1977;
London, Faber, 1978
"The writer has produced a cleverly knit tale bringing in the layout of Pompeii, the characters, tradesmen and artists known to have lived there in the first century A.D., the social conventions of the time and above all the ominous presence of the innocent-looking mountain to the north of the city. A bizarre mixture of main characters share a lively story line. Timon, the Greek boy, now slave to the painter Scrofa, two young aristocrats of the town, and a pirate and his gladiator brother are the members of the ill-assorted group that, in escaping from unhappy fortunes in the city, succeed in being survivors of the holocaust as they set sail from the harbour as the eruption begins. The threads which archaeologists have untangled in recent years are skilfully woven together to present the last days Pompeii in realistic terms." (Book Window, Summer 1978)

"Admirably constructed and written story of a last-minute escape from the doomed city. She wears her learning lightly and it is only at the end of the book that you realise how much information she has conveyed about domestic Roman life and the complex social relationship of a slave-owning society." (Scottish Educational Journal)
"Pompeii, which we know as well as any place in the ancient world, shows crisp and clear in all its tawdriness. There are thrills aplenty but no contrivance. Even the villains are villains by circumstance. Some of the portraits, especially Scrofa the old painter, are beautifully done, but psychology never gets in the way of the narrative which drives forward at a fine pace --- a good read." (Junior Bookshelf)
"Exceptionally readable." (Leon Garfield, The Guardian)
"Effectively done; good too on painting and fresco techniques, on the grisly popular Roman 'circus', on the general modus vivendi." (Naomi Lewis, The Observer)
"An exciting book," (Morning Star)
"The final destruction, seen from the sea, is awesome." (The Irish Times)
"Period and place are strikingly conveyed throughout this absorbing book." (Birmingham Post)
"Eilís Dillon has long been in the first rank of writers of historcal novels for the nine to 12-year-olds, and The Shadow of Vesuvius can only enhance her reputation." (Times Educational Supplement)
"A kindly and real story." (Athens Daily Post)
"A tightly plotted adventure story." (The Australian)

The Seekers
New York, Charles Scribner's Sons, 1986
Poolbeg Press, Dublin, 1991
A story of love and adventure between England and the New World, in the time of the Pilgrim Fathers.

"A smoothly written historical novel ... the story provides a convincing, engaging portrait of the period." (Publishers Weekly)

The Island of Ghosts
New York, Charles Scribner's Sons, 1989;
London, Faber, 1990 (paperback edition 1991)
Two island boys are kidnapped by an elderly man with a strange romantic obsession. Only their sisters believe that they are still alive, and set out to find them.

"A rare treat ... The reader is kept turning page after page." (Irish Times)
"[Eilís Dillon's] writing has always been distinguished by the vividness of her imagination and her feeling for atmosphere. This book is no exception." (Junior Bookshelf)

Children of Bach
New York, Scribner, 1992;
London, Faber, 1993
When Peter, Suzy and little Pali find that their parents have been arrested with other Jews, they embark on a daring plan to escape from Hungary to Italy. Not knowing whom to trust, they risk danger and betrayal.

"An intense, gripping novel." (Sunday Telegraph)
"This realistic story of risk, trust and hope portrays the necessary dependence on others that existed during the most gruesome time in history." (The English Journal, Oct. 1993)
"In Eilís Dillon's beautifully crafted novel of suspense, crisis brings about growth and compassion." (The Jewish Reporter)
"Courage coexists with human vulnerability, while the ironies of the title are exploited subtly and to excellent effect." (Publishers Weekly)
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