The Sealwoman's Gift (Paperback)
  • The Sealwoman's Gift (Paperback)
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The Sealwoman's Gift (Paperback)

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£9.99
Paperback 384 Pages
Published: 14/06/2018
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Waterstones Says

Our Scottish Book of the Month for July. From the coastline of Iceland to the heat of Algiers; Magnusson delivers a moving debut of uprooted lives woven through with myth-making and storytelling.

Waterstones Scottish Book of the Month for July 2018

Chosen for the Zoe Ball Book Club 

'Icelandic history has been brought to extraordinary life. I was swept up in the story and the vivid plight of people taken away from everything they knew and understood. An accomplished and intelligent novel.' - Yrsa Sigurdardottir

In 1627 Barbary pirates raided the coast of Iceland and abducted some 400 of its people, including 250 from a tiny island off the mainland. Among the captives sold into slavery in Algiers were the island pastor, his wife and their three children. Although the raid itself is well documented, little is known about what happened to the women and children afterwards. It was a time when women everywhere were largely silent.

In this brilliant reimagining, Sally Magnusson gives a voice to Asta, the pastor's wife. Enslaved in an alien Arab culture Asta meets the loss of both her freedom and her children with the one thing she has brought from home: the stories in her head.

Steeped in the sagas and folk tales of her northern homeland, she finds herself experiencing not just the separations and agonies of captivity, but the reassessments that come in any age when intelligent eyes are opened to other lives, other cultures and other kinds of loving.

The Sealwoman's Gift is about the eternal power of storytelling to help us survive. The novel is full of stories - Icelandic ones told to fend off a slave-owner's advances, Arabian ones to help an old man die. And there are others, too: the stories we tell ourselves to protect our minds from what cannot otherwise be borne, the stories we need to make us happy.

Publisher: John Murray Press
ISBN: 9781473638983
Number of pages: 384
Weight: 268 g
Dimensions: 198 x 161 x 24 mm


MEDIA REVIEWS

From the first, it leaps from the page... I found myself absolutely persuaded by Ásta's extraordinary journey from the harsh Icelandic coast to the strange and splendid palaces of Algiers. I enjoyed and admired it in equal measure - Sarah Perry, author of THE ESSEX SERPENT

A remarkable feat of imagination that transports the reader to 17th-century Iceland and Algiers ... an extraordinarily immersive read that emphasises the power of stories, examining themes of motherhood, identity, exile and freedom. Through her deft storytelling, Magnusson takes us on a journey that not only crosses continents, but encompasses tragedy and rich sensuality. - Sian Norris, Guardian

An evocative, striking new novel ... which brings an Icelandic historical tragedy, and in particular, Icelandic woman Asta Egilsson, back to pulsing life. - Stephen McGinty, Times

Moving, accomplished ... Richly imagined and energetically told, The Sealwoman's Gift is a powerful tale of loss and endurance - Sunday Times

Magnusson has certainly done her research, and she has found in the silences of the historical record the space for a novel that moves gracefully between what is known and what must be imagined...Much of the pleasure of reading The Sealwoman's Gift is that of a good yarn well told. - TLS

Fascinating ... a really, really good read - BBC Radio 2 Book Club

Sally Magnusson has turned this grim true story into a page-turner...beautifully told. - Radio Times

Sally Magnusson has taken an amazing true event and created a brilliant first novel. It's an epic journey in every sense: although it's historical, it's incredibly relevant to our world today. - Zoe Ball Book Club

Sally Magnusson writes compellingly of the psychological and physical shocks of being uprooted. Impeccably researched, this is a poetic retelling of Icelandic history. - Daily Mail

Sally Magnusson's wonderfully accomplished first novel is an enthralling mixture of recovered history and the imagining of lost lives. It's a delightful piece of storytelling which is also a story about telling stories ... In short, this is the best sort of historical novel - Scotsman

This is the best sort of historical novel. It respects the past and brings it alive. - The Scotsman

Icelandic history has been brought to extraordinary life. I was swept up in the story and the vivid plight of people taken away from everything they knew and understood. An accomplished and intelligent novel. - Yrsa Sigurðardóttir, author of WHY DID YOU LIE?

'Sally Magnusson has taken a little-known historical event - the Barbary corsair raid on Iceland in 1627 - and produced a moving story of suffering and redemption. Her tale of Ásta, the Reverend's wife, indomitable survivor of tragedy and heartbreak, is vivid and compelling' - Adam Nichols

A rich, captivating work - Mail on Sunday

Engrossing, atmospheric - Sunday Express

Compelling stuff - Good Housekeeping

A lyrical tale full of the Icelandic stories that Asta tells her children and her kidnappers - Stylist

Remarkably accomplished...The true story behind the novel is almost preposterously epic, yet she brings it to life by inhabiting the minds of her characters - David Robinson, The Scotsman

Sally Magnusson's wonderfully accomplished first novel is an enthralling mixture of recovered history and the imagining of lost lives. It's a delightful piece of storytelling which is also a story about telling stories. - Yorkshire Post

A compelling read...While a historical novel, it also contains contemporary resonances, particularly in the way it examines how different people integrate into a society that is completely foreign to them - Caroline Sanderson, The Bookseller

An astonishing novel that will stay with me for a long time...Asta Thorsteinsdottir is a truly remarkable and resourceful heroine - Waterstones Book Blog

An impressive debut from Magnusson who seems to have inherited her Icelandic ancestors' talent for beguiling storytelling - The Herald

Magnusson's prose never falters ... What an exceptional and moving fiction debut this is. - Elle Thinks blog

An engrossing and accomplished novel - The Last Word Book Review

There's something so wonderful about being wholly drawn into a richly imagined historical novel that both illuminates a somewhat forgotten or not-widely-known period of history and gives voice to people who are only glancingly referred to in the history books ... this novel brilliantly engages with many of the heartrending conflicts a woman in Asta's position must have faced while also powerfully illuminating the cultural importance of storytelling and the complicated dynamics of love - Lonesome Reader

Packed with detail and characters, Sally's immersive prose and precise observations entwine you in the action and emotion of this dramatic tale. An absolute triumph of imagination - Press Association

Inspired by the country's literary sagas, the novel's heart-wrenching fiction is built around the bloodied bones of fact, words hauled from written records of the 17th century - Sunday Post

Much more than simply a vividly-imagined historical novel, but a personally touching meditation on the choices we're forced to make in life - Lonesome Reader

Captivating - Scots Magazine

This psychological depth, along with engaging prose and meticulous research into the history on which this novel is based, makes The Sealwoman's Gift another contender for my books of the year - Annethology

Excellent - Dumfries and Galloway Life

accomplished...enthralling...This is the best sort of historical novel - Allan Massie, The Scotsman

I have been banging the drum for The Sealwoman's Gift for a solid year now, still recommending it to every person I possibly can - and it was the first book on this list, the only absolute certainty from the beginning. A stunning debut novel, it is based on the true story of 17th century Icelanders who were kidnapped and sold as slaves in North Africa. The writing is beautiful, the sense of time and place once again at the top of the author's list of many talents, and the magical-realism of the Sealwoman utterly convincing. - Cultured Vultures

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“A brilliant debut....”

In 1627 Barbary pirates raided the coast of Iceland and enslaved over 400 of its people. Based on this, we get to read the story of Asta , the pastor's wife. Her story is wonderful and beautifully imagined and... More

Hardback edition
Helpful? Upvote 121

“A remarkable debut”

I was very fortunate to have met and even interviewed Magnus Magnusson back in the mid 1980’s and so when The Sealwoman’s Gift by the Broadcaster and Journalist Sally Mangnusson landed on my desk it brought so much... More

Hardback edition
Helpful? Upvote 63

“An astonishing novel that will stay with me for a long time”

In 1627 a large group of Icelanders were brutally seized by pirates and taken on a voyage to Algiers to be sold into slavery. Torn from their families, homes and country, this is the start of a deeply traumatising... More

Hardback edition
Helpful? Upvote 56

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