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Monday 13 April 2020

The Sealwoman's Gift by Sally Magnusson

I'm not really a fan of historical novels, and the older the history, the greater my disinterest. But a good friend recommended this, one whose recommendations I trust implicitly, and having grown up with Mastermind hosted by Icelandic Magnus Magnusson, I was intrigued to explore the talents of his author daughter.

I wasn't disappointed. She took an event from seventeenth-century Icelandic history, a time of piracy and slavery, to form the building blocks of her novel and with incredible imagination created an amazing story featuring Asta and her family: her pastor husband and four children. It's a story which takes us from the bleak and harsh Icelandic geography to the hot, sultry Algerian climate and embraces the stark contrast of culture, religion and language between the two.

The weaving of history and fiction is executed with impressive skill. This is Magnusson's debut novel. It's evocative, compelling and meticulously researched.

Captivating though this is, impelling you to turn those pages, it's worth slowing down your reading pace to really savour the Icelandic sagas, the richness of the writing, the sensuality, the understanding and passion therein, the drama, the heartbreak and adventure. And then there's Asta: loyal, devoted, stubborn, determined and brave.

A charming and wonderful tale.

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