Thursday, 22 December 2016

Sealskin by Su Bristow

By Su Bristow
Published by Orenda Books (E-book - 22 December 2016; Paperback - 15 February 2017)
ISBN: 978-1910633601

Publisher's description
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.

My verdict
Selkies are mythological creatures in Scottish folklore - seals who can shed their skin to become human on land. In Sealskin, Su Bristow has brought the magic of this wonderful legend to life.

When Donald, a young fisherman, sees selkies for the first time, he is overcome with emotion. He has no idea that his unexpected and shocking response will have life-changing repercussions, not just for him and his family but for his whole community.

Sealskin is exquisitely written with haunting prose and evocative descriptions of the Scottish landscape. It's filled with beauty, surprises and subtle twists and turns. There's a mesmerising love story at its heart. But this book is far more than just a love story. It's about forgiveness, taking responsibility for our actions, planning for the future, standing up for what's right, overcoming our fears and being accepted by a tight-knit community that's not used to strangers. I could go on, but I'll let readers discover the many layers for themselves.

I don't think there was a single character who didn't change somehow by the end of Sealskin. A whole community was bewitched by the magic. Just as I was.

I tried to read Sealskin slowly, as I wanted the book to last, yet it was so compelling that I struggled to put it down. I really didn't want the story to end - and felt bereft when it did, surrounded by boxes of tissues. I'm sure I'll be reading this book several times to feel that magic again and again.

It's no surprise that Su Bristow is an Exeter Novel prize-winner. Her writing is beautiful and this book is stunning. Sealskin is destined to go far.

I received an Advance Reader Copy from the publisher.

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