Haven Review

Haven by Emma Donoghue is a survival novel set in around the seventh century around Ireland. I don’t believe I’ve read any survival novels such as this one, which is set so far back in time. The closest would like be the movie Cast Away by Tom Hanks. Being that one of my goals for year 2024 is to read more novels and stories set in medieval times, along with more having to do with monastic life, Haven was right up my alley. This is a story based truly on one’s test of faith and calling. To have enough faith to undergo a mission such as the one undertaken in Haven by these three monks is nothing short of what some would rather call complete madness instead.

That’s the problem with a vow of obedience; it tends to make sheep of men.


I really enjoyed reading Haven. Learning about monastic life in ancient times I find very fascinating, and one doesn’t need to be religious to enjoy it, in my true opinion. Learning about their prayers and how many times they must perform them per day is exhausting, yet these were really the daily routines a real monk would go through during those times. It’s also impressive how a monk can always seem to quote a scripture or a quote from the Bible for basically every scenario they are encountering to strengthen their courage. As far as the story goes, it is a brutal and harsh one. As mentioned, Haven is all about survival with literally as little as possible on a inhospitable island. Again, think Cast Away with Tom Hanks but with three monks, and instead of finding an escape off the island, they are forced to remain on it.

Everything is a sign if you look at it hard enough.


The slow and steadily brewing tension is what makes the story so nail-biting at times. Although we mostly read about the daily struggles of the monks, such as being able to find enough food and fuel for their fires, there’s always that underlying tension that something or someone will have to eventually break and give way. As fanatical and faithful as the monks are to their mission, there are just some things that cannot be overcome by prayers alone.

Take no thought for tomorrow, for each day has trouble enough.


Any fans of survival fiction should give Haven a try. Regardless of the time period, you throw a man on an island with practically nothing to go on, and every man will equally suffer. I’ve only realized that the author also wrote “Room,” whose movie adaptation is on my to-watch list, so definitely kudos to her for doing big things!

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