Sealskin was published by Orenda in print on 15th February 2017, it is also available as an e -book. My thanks to the publisher for the review copy and having me on the blog tour.
What happens when magic collides with reality?
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 – Sealskin is a magical story, evoking 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, Exeter Novel Prize-winner 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. And it is, quite simply, unforgettable.
I have been mulling over what to write in my review for this book for the last few days. I find it hardest to review the books that I enjoyed the most. This book is a feat of storytelling and one that deserves to be read. It transcended genres and took a small piece of my heart with it when the final page turned.
Sealskin is set in Scotland and tells the story of the Selkie legends. This is not something I really knew about, but Selkies are mythical creatures that can be found in folklore. They are seals that can shed their skin on land to become human. This wonderful creative story is shot through with magical realism and in some respects is a fable.
This is the story of Donald and Mairhi. Their relationship seems doomed from the start, circumstances of their getting together more than a little controversial. Mairhi doesn't speak but she soon learns how to adapt to her human life. She was my favourite character in this story. A transient, ethereal beauty with far more depth than people appreciated. Donald is very much an outsider and he made a rash decision that changes the lives of himself and those around him dramatically. Some for the good and some for the bad. This story tackles that sensitively and allows the space for the reader to form their own opinion.
Important topics covered within this book are, love in its varying guises, acceptance, wrong doing, atonement and redemption. All of which is set against the haunting and beautiful backdrop of the Scottish Coastline, and village life. The landscape becomes somewhat of a character itself. Drawing the reader in, with sounds of the sea and the calling of the waves.
Su Bristow writes elegantly, with grace and compassion. She has managed to display in her writing the best and the worst sides of the human condition. The lyrical and often magical prose makes this the perfect piece of story telling that it is.
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 debut 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’.
Please do check out the other stops on the blog tour: