As the Women Lay Dreaming

Donald S Murray

A son of the Hebrides, Donald S Murray is a writer and poet whose first novel, As the Women Lay Dreaming, won the Paul Torday Memorial Prize in 2020, as well as being shortlisted for a host of other literary awards. Like his first novel, his second, In a Veil of Mist, is set in the Isle of Lewis and centred on historical events of the 20th century. In a Veil of Mist was shortlisted for the Highland Book Prize. Donald’s previous books have been shortlisted for both the Saltire Literary Awards and the Callum Macdonald Memorial Award. His critically acclaimed non-fiction books bring to life the culture and nature of the Scottish islands, and he appears regularly on BBC Radio 4 and BBC Radio Scotland. He is also the writer of The Man who Talks to Birdsa collection of poetry published in 2020.

His latest novel, The Call of the Cormorant, is an ‘unreliable biography’ of Karl Kjerúlf Einarsson: an artist and an adventurer, a charlatan and a swindler, forever in search of Atlantis.

As the Women Lay Dreaming

A novel of the Iolaire disaster

by Donald S Murray

  • RRP: £9.99 (print) / £6.99 (ebook)
  • Format: Paperback
  • ISBN: 9781913393489
  • Ebook ISBN: 9781912235407


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Paul Torday Memorial Prize, WINNER The Herald Scottish Culture Awards, Outstanding Literature Award, SHORTLISTED Authors’ Club Best First Novel Award, SHORTLISTED Walter Scott Prize, “Academy Recommends List” Highland Book Prize, LONGLISTED In the small hours of January 1st, 1919, the cruellest twist of fate changed at a stroke the lives of an entire community. Tormod Morrison was there that terrible night. He was on board HMY Iolaire when it smashed into rocks and sank, killing some 200 servicemen on the very last leg of their long journey home from war. For Tormod – a man unlike others, with artistry in his fingertips – the disaster would mark him indelibly. Two decades later, Alasdair and Rachel are sent to the windswept Isle of Lewis to live with Tormod in his traditional blackhouse home, a world away from the Glasgow of their earliest years. Their grandfather is kind, compassionate, but still deeply affected by the remarkable true story of the Iolaire shipwreck – by the selfless heroism and desperate tragedy he witnessed. A deeply moving novel about passion constrained, coping with loss and a changing world, As the Women Lay Dreaming explores how a single event can so dramatically impact communities, individuals and, indeed, our very souls.

Prizes and awards

Paul Torday Memorial Award, WINNER
The Herald Scottish Culture Awards, Outstanding Literature Award, SHORTLISTED
Authors' Club Best First Novel Award 2019, SHORTLISTED
Historical Writers' Association Debut Crown, LONGLISTED
Highland Book Prize 2018, LONGLISTED
Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction 2019, 'Academy Recommends List'

REVIEWS OF As the Women Lay Dreaming

“A haunting, poignant, meticulously researched novel about the 1919 Iolaire ferry disaster and its effect on the local community. An extraordinary piece of storytelling.” Authors’ Club Best First Novel Award judges

“Atmospheric and evocative… masterful writing.” The Wee Review

“A beautifully drawn novel. …Achingly well realised.” Roger Hutchinson, West Highland Free Press

“A poignant novel.” Nicola Sturgeon

“A searing poetic meditation on stoicism and loss.” Mariella Frostrup, BBC Radio 4 Open Book

“A powerful novel… A poignant exploration of love, loss and survivor’s guilt.” Nick Rennison, Sunday Times

“Triumphant… The writing is breath-taking, poignant and takes great pains to immerse the reader in ideas of trauma, suffering and the shared culture of a grieving generation. [A] rich and lyrical writing style.” Lochaber Life, Book of the Month

“Timely, clever, evocative… Murray has said that this novel took him around sixteen years to complete and on the strength of this poignant offering one hopes we will not have to wait so long for his second.” Shetland Times

“A classic bildungsroman… It is that rarity: a work of imagination which reads like experienced truth. It’s the kind of book you want to read again as soon as you finish it, because you know there is so much that will be revealed on that second reading: the kind of novel which can enrich your life.” Allan Massie, Scotsman, Scottish Books of the Year, 2018

“Murray is an evocative painter of landscapes and a deeply sympathetic writer… This diligently researched book exists principally as a space for forgotten voices to sound, bearing witness not just to this tragedy, but to the terrible cost of World War I itself.” Stephanie Cross, Daily Mail

“Beautifully and sensitively told, by one of the great lyrical writers of our time, D S Murray ... [A] brutal reminder of how resilient and tangled are the tentacles of tragedy.” Cathy MacDonald

“[A] tightly structured, time-hopping memoir-but-not-a-memoir… A story spanning 74 years whittled meticulously into shape… Murray pulls off the perfect combination of fact and fiction… [His] assured journey through the disruption, trauma, love and loss threaded unspoken through one Lewis family, with barely a word of the shipwreck, is on every page a novel of the Iolaire disaster.“ Catriona Black, Herald and National

“A very special book… a poignant tale of family, love and relationships lived out in the hardest of places… Donald S Murray is superb in bringing his characters to life and making the incidents they encounter feel utterly real.” Undiscovered Scotland

“A powerful book…which reveals new layers with every reading. It is history brought to life through fiction, and when it is done in a manner as moving and beautiful as this it is invaluable.” Alistair Braidwood, Scots Whay Hae.