The Sealwoman’s Gift by Sally Magnusson
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 excitement to me. Old stories from Iceland are part of folklore and The Sealwoman’s Gift is a remarkable debut that just adds to the legend of Icelandic stories.
This is a story that is set in the 17th Century and a pirate raid on the small Westman Island close to Iceland. The pirates were only after one thing to round up as many of the men and women and children and sell them as slaves in the far off Arabian countries.
It is 1627 and the pirates have taken the Pastor Olafur Egilsson, his wife and children along with hundreds of the inhabitants of this small island and now they are on a long voyage not without danger. When they arrive in Algiers the islanders are sold off for slavery with the exception of the Pastor Egilsson who is allowed to travel back to his country to seek a ransom to free those now captured and are now slaves.
Egilsson’s wife Asta has three children and with a fourth on the way she is now thrust into new life thousands of miles away from her home on the island of Westman. For Asta she is a voice in this extraordinary novel which she breathes life to this story. On the island of Westman life is incredibly hard were the weather never seems to let up. Asta has always believed on the Icelandic fables and she believes in elves much to the dismay of her much older husband Olafur Egilsson.
Sally Magnusson has managed to recreate the dreadful conditions on the pirate ship as the islanders have to contend with the stench and the cramped conditions on-board and this is where Asta will give birth to her fourth child a son and the name of Jon. What a life this poor child arrives into aboard a slave ship wrapped in nothing more that filthy rags.
Now sold into slavery in a country so vastly different, food in abundance and a riot of colour, and also the weather is so different gone is the cold and wet and now it is hot sun nearly every day.
Asta has never forgotten the old stories and it is here that she now tells these stories to her master Ali Pitterling Cilleby. Old stories from thousands of miles away from a far off small island now be told in Algiers. These stories are a reminder of her far off homeland and she thinks constantly of her husband is travelling to seek a ransom to free them. Will Asta ever be re-united with her husband or even her homeland ever again?
I have to say that I am deeply impressed with the writing of Sally Magnusson and how she tells such an engrossing and accomplished novel. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
My thanks to Rosie Gailer at Two Roads Books for the review copy of The Sealwoman’s Gift.
The Sealwoman’s Gift by Sally Magnusson is published by Two Roads Books and is published on 8th February 2018 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops