Publisher: Orenda Books
Donald is a young fisherman, eking out a lonely living on the west coast of Scotland. One night he witnesses something miraculous, and makes a terrible mistake. His action changes lives—not only his own, but those of his family and the entire tightly knit community in which they live. Can he ever atone for the wrong he has done, and can love grow when its foundation is violence? Based on the legend of the selkies—seals who can transform into people—evokes the harsh beauty of the landscape, the resilience of its people, both human and animal, and the triumph of hope over fear and prejudice. With exquisite grace, Su Bristow transports us to a different world, subtly and beautifully exploring what it means to be an outsider, and our innate capacity for forgiveness and acceptance. Rich with myth and magic, Sealskin is, nonetheless, a very human story, as relevant to our world as to the timeless place in which it is set.
Happy Valentines Day and welcome to my stop on the blog tour for Sealskin! This was a truly gorgeous story, and while it was not normally the type of book I would be drawn to, I’m so delighted that Karen at Orenda Books put this on my radar.
It seems like anytime I begin a review of an Orenda book I say that it will be difficult for me to review because I’ve never read anything like it before and this is no exception. What a spectacular read this was, I have honestly never encountered a book quite like it and am just blown away by the gentle beauty of the story.
I had never heard of the legend of the Selkie before but as soon as I began reading, I was immediately entranced by the descriptions of these stunning creatures. Donald is a young man that lives on the coast of Scotland and he leads an isolated and lonely life with his mother, Bridie. He’s always been an outsider in his tight knit community and has never felt like he’s truly belonged. After a fateful night where he makes a foolish and risky decision, he learns some hard lessons, but he also may find his place in the world at the same time and discover the power of forgiveness, acceptance and pure love.
I’m hesitant to discuss much more of the plot, this is one of those very special books that needs to be read with an open mind and no prior knowledge of what’s to come. Bristow is an incredibly talented writer, she had me under her spell from page one and my interest never wavered until I turned the final page. There are some deep messages here, many of which are very timely even though it evokes a time period of long ago. The power of forgiveness and the healing it provides is one of the most prevalent themes and it also explores prejudices, love and family bonds. The characterization is superb, Donald evolves in such a profound manner by the time the story ends, and Mairhi is such a moving character, especially since she never utters a single word. Set in the rugged and unforgiving coast of Scotland, the awe inspiring beauty and harsh atmosphere heightens the intensity of the plot and provides an unforgettable landscape that will take your breath away. I can’t say enough about how profoundly this book effected me and Bristow has told a sensational story that will stay with me forever.
Overall rating: 5/5
Thanks to the lovely Karen at Orenda Books for my review copy.
About the Author:
Su Bristow is a consultant medical herbalist by day. She’s the author of two books on herbal medicine: The Herbal Medicine Chest and The Herb Handbook; and two on relationship skills: The Courage to Love and Falling in Love, Staying in Love, co-written with psychotherapist, Malcolm Stern. Her published fiction includes ‘Troll Steps’ (in the anthology, Barcelona to Bihar), and ‘Changes’ which came second in the 2010 CreativeWritingMatters flash fiction competition. Her forthcoming novel, Sealskin, is set in the Hebrides, and it’s a reworking of the Scottish legend of the selkies, or seals who can turn into people. It won the Exeter Novel Prize 2013. Her writing has been described as ‘magical realism; Angela Carter meets Eowyn Ivey’.