The Sealwoman's Gift
Icelandic sagas mingle with Arabian nights in this beautifully written novel which is based on the true historical event that traumatised Iceland, when Barbary pirates raided the coast and captured over 400 people who were then sold as slaves in Algiers. Transported from the bleak, windswept Icelandic landscape to the heady and fragrant land of North Africa, we follow the story of Asta, the Reverend's wife. She is sold, along with her children, to a rich slave-master while her husband is sent back home to plead a ransom from the King. It is almost a decade later before she hears from him again. During this time she experiences gut wrenching loss, violation, what it is to be a slave woman in a Muslim world and, unexpectedly, love. The tragedy is that so many captives became torn between two worlds after so long away from home, and being separated from their children. Asta's life takes on the quality of the sagas she loves and it is stories that help her to stay sane, ease others' suffering and form powerful bonds. Readers who enjoyed The Snow Child and Burial Rites will love this novel as much as I did. Jemma
'A remarkable feat of imagination... I enjoyed and admired it in equal measure' Sarah Perry, author of The Essex SerpentIn 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.'Icelandic history has been brought to extraordinary life... An accomplished and intelligent novel' Yrsa Sigurdardottir, author of Why Did You Lie?
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, author of WHY DID YOU LIE? * From the first, it leaps from the page... I found myself absolutely persuaded by Asta'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 *
Broadcaster and journalist Sally Magnusson has written 10 books, most famously, her Sunday Times bestseller, Where Memories Go (2014) about her mother's dementia. Half-Icelandic, half Scottish, Sally has inherited a rich storytelling tradition. The Sealwoman's Gift is her first novel.