Heligoland by Shena Mackay

About the book

The Nautilus, a strange building shaped like the chambered shell of the same name, was built in South London in the early 1930s. Designed on Modernist and Utopian principles, it was a haven for a floating community of cosmopolitan refugees, intellectuals and artists.
Now, at the end of the century, only two of the original inhabitants still occupy their chambers – Celeste Zylberstein, joint architect with her late husband of the Nautilus, and Francis Campion, an elderly poet. Gus Crabb, a dealer in bric-a-brac, is the only other resident until, to the Nautilus, like a hermit crab seeking a home, comes Rowena Snow. Of Indian/Scottish parentage, orphaned, without family or friends, Rowena is in search of her own Utopia – or the Heligoland of her childhood imagination.

Reviewed by Denmead Reading Circle:

Not one reader enjoyed this book, many gave up reading. Unconvincing characters, (a few votes for Rowena) rambling episodes. Language often pretentious – not the language of the characters.

Star rating: *

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2 thoughts on “Heligoland by Shena Mackay”

  1. Review by Redhouse
    Very disappointing – generally we felt pretentious use of language. Lacked development of characters. Began to improve towards end but then stopped!
    Star rating: *


  2. Review by All Saints Reading Group:
    Terrific descriptive opening, then it fell away a bit, but there was a satisfying ending. Great feel of late 40’s and early 50s e.g. plastic popper beads and corduroy leggings.
    Star rating: **


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