A delightfully macabre journey through 19th century Edinburgh, Isla Rising unfolds in unsuspecting and enjoyable ways. Written with humor and care, the book is told from the perspectives of Isla and her cat Belle. Readers are provided with two distinct narratives that combine into one fun story. Johnson delivers an original story mixing aspects of the supernatural together with the mundane. Through the story's two narratives, readers are given space and time to get to know the two main characters quite well.
- The BookLife Prize
PJ Johnson’s hugely enjoyable debut novel Isla Rising not only (re)animates the living and the dead alike with her vivid prose; she resurrects a 19th-century Edinburgh, with all its darkness, dangers, and superstitions, such that you’re drawn inexorably into this romantic adventure of love beyond the grave without ever once doubting its veracity. One of the heroes is even a cat! What’s not to like?
Will Yeoman, The West Australian
I don't go much for whimsy, nor do I easily suspend disbelief - so I can't tell you how delighted I was to be drawn into Isla's last brief moments before her out of body experience by your charming telling of the tale. Belle was as believable a character as any of the others while retaining her innate feline nature in every respect. I read the book straight through - not just because it was easy to read but because it led me cunningly on through a well-wrought and written plot with everything going for it - love, loss, mystery, goodness and evil, laughter and sorrow. You retained the quaint turns of the Scottish vernacular admirably throughout without it being too intrusive - as also the tricky use of the present tense.
The grisly grave robbing scenes and climax of the Samain night were convincing historically - and gripping. I don't know that the story was even all that fanciful. Many people - including me - have felt the lingering presence of a recently departed loved one for quite a while - before they get accustomed to their new state and gradually fade away.
It could make a film with wonderful scope for special effects.
I hope you enjoyed writing it as much as I enjoyed reading it.
With all best wishes
Patsy Millett - author of Inseparable Elements
I loved this book. It was so beautifully crafted and had an interesting perspective through the voice of the cat.
Merriene Scott - author of Adventure into Transformation
The Water of Leith
I have read your book and loved it. The characters and especially beloved Belle are so real and warm. I couldn’t the book down. I didn’t want to miss any of them. Their different points of view flowed seamlessly with the story of just those few days. The climax at the Samain was wonderfully exciting. The story of Isla and Duncan was electric. Humour and sadness, death and poverty all gave life to the Edinburgh setting and her people with love and pathos. I liked the way you handled grave robbing with the inevitably hopeless but endearing Tom and Crowe and Charlotte falling headlong hopelessly into a disaster with that Luke. And little Flora was so sad but uplifted, otherworldly.
So much here Pat.
Congratulations again and thank you for this wonderful experience.
I read the book in between the things I had to do as once I started I really did not want to put it down . So I came to the end last night and the very wonderful journey was complete.
I liked it very much for taking me away into the past as well as the other worlds, for the very evocative images of life, humanity and nature, and not just the wonderful animal world of Belle but wherever birds or the weather or the places or interiors. They were all so real from your chosen words I could feel how much sensitivity you have to do all that craft work in every sphere.
As well, the reality of the other side where the invisible was so visible was fantastic fun and made me wish I could experience that ' incredible lightness of being'.
The good characters were so lovely, the middle suffering or compromised characters redeemed in their way and the baddies got it! All so satisfying and why iI didn't want to put it down as the story flowed on and the threads of all the doings had me in suspense to know if they really were all going to be resolved.
So love and gratitude to you for the gift of leaving the body for a time in this present time.