A Swift Pure Cry

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A Swift Pure Cry
First edition cover
Author Siobhan Dowd
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Genre Young adult
Publisher David Fickling Books
Publication date
2 March 2006
Pages 320
ISBN 978-0-385-60970-8
OCLC 62475200

A Swift Pure Cry is a 2006 novel by Siobhan Dowd about a teenager named Shell who lives in County Cork, Ireland. It won the 2007 Branford Boase Award and the Eilís Dillon Award.


Shell: The fifteen-year-old main character of A Swift Pure Cry. She is intelligent, but unmotivated and is often bitter about her father’s role in the family. She misses her mother and maintains religious behavior.

Trix: Shell's younger sister who attends a primary school along with Jimmy. She is very innocent and childlike, enjoying games and songs, while at the same time capable of acting mature for her age.

Jimmy: Shell's younger brother, age nine. Jimmy has his mother's talent for playing music, but is very hot-tempered at times. He, like Trix, can handle situations that are dangerous.

Mr. Talent: Shell's father. He used to be a level-headed man. However, when his wife died, he fell into alcoholism and religious collecting. Because of his alcoholic habits, he believes that he is Shell's child’s father.

Father Rose: The young, twenty-five-year-old priest, new to Coolbar. He is described as having a friendly and personal manner, while at the same time able to seriously discuss religion and Christianity. The town folk do not trust him completely and find his way of teaching suspect. Because of this, his relationship with Shell is often strained.

Bridie: Shell's teenage friend. Birdie is considered to be a rebel in the school, but an outcast too. She steals regularly from the town's stores and also smokes. She also is having sex with Declan and possibly runs away to Cork. She is pregnant and it is her baby in the cave.

Declan: The slightly older altar boy from Coolbar that Shell engages in a relationship. He is cheerful and playful, with a knack for creating mini poems. After sleeping with Shell for several months, he leaves her for America, where he eventually remembers Shell and writes to her. He is a player, having sex with Bridie and Shell.

Rose: Shell's stillborn baby, named after Father Rose. Half sister of the baby in the cave.

Comments and response[edit]

From Borders.com, one reader says that A Swift Pure Cry "uses Irish dialect and lyrical prose to draw the reader into Shell's world. Her courage and faith shine clearly through this heartbreaking tale."

Another reader on Amazon says that they were grateful that "this story addressed some serious issues that involve both teens and adults. It was also a story that we as adults and teens can relate to rather that some hyped-up Hollywood film relaying an idealistic fantasy or an against-all-odds romance."

Another review describes the book as "not a typical fictional example of the dire consequences of teen rebellion. With its lyrical prose and no-holds-bar of emotional turmoil is a heartbreaking yet hopeful family drama centered on a young woman as she struggles to care for her family while trying to understand the life her Mam left behind."



According to the author's website, A Swift Pure Cry was inspired by two separate incidents in Ireland. The first event occurred in 1984 when a fifteen-year-old girl, Anne Lovett, died from blood loss and exposure while trying to give birth on her own. Critics blamed her death on the town folk who failed to give her guidance and aid. The second incident (Kerry Babies) involved a woman in her 20s giving birth to a child, rumored to be the result of an affair with a married man, and a baby being found stabbed to death around the same time. As in A Swift Pure Cry, controversy arose over whether the woman killed her child and if she did not, who the second child belonged to.

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