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Review April 2020

 The Sealwoman's Gift by Sally Magnusson.

First Published: 2018

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The Sealwoman's Gift

by Sally Magnusson

This proved to be a truly remarkable book.

It is based on historically verifiable events in 17th century relating to piracy and slavery in the north Atlantic area, and involving Iceland, Algeria and Denmark. The story is recounted primarily from the impact on one family central to the events, and as recounted by the wife.

The author’s gift is to take the reader vividly into the moment, in an almost kinaesthetic recounting of the piracy, the transport, the city of Algiers, and Iceland as an inhospitable contrast. The gift also is to take the reader into the emotional state especially of Asta, the wife, as she deals with the series of traumatic events.

This is a multi-layered book. Slavery is portrayed without pulling any punches. And without taking sides, the book points up the cultural differences between impoverished Iceland, and abundantly endowed Algiers, between the religious tensions of Muslim and Christian. Importantly all of the cultures are re-inforced by story-telling.

Most members related well to Asta, but sympathised with Olafur, Asta’s husband.

There was a general feeling that even if a happy ending was not appropriate, some closure on the destiny Asta’s children would have been an improvement. Indeed a number of readers felt that as Algiers was so much nicer than Iceland, Asta should have finished her years there.

Club comments: “beautiful writing”, “brilliant”, “loved it”, “beautiful book”, “Lovely book – very human writing transports you to different places”.

AA Score: 4.9, *****


AA Book Club
Five stars