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. We had to pick it.
This is 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.
In 1627, corsairs from Algiers raided the coast of Iceland, killing dozens and carrying off at least 400 people to the slave markets of North Africa. It remains one of the most traumatic events in Icelandic history, and Sally Magnusson has chosen it as the subject of The Sealwoman’s Gift, her moving, accomplished debut novel....Richly imagined and energetically told, The Sealwoman’s Gift is a powerful tale of loss and endurance.
One is inclined in a brief review to concentrate on the novel’s themes, and this is fair enough, for they are interesting, oddly charming and yet also often disconcerting. But for many it may be Sally Magnusson’s descriptive skill, and her ability to capture the feeling of place and a distant time, which are most delightful. In short, this is the best sort of historical novel. It respects the past and brings it alive.
Magnusson has chosen a fascinating and little-known historical event as the starting point for her tale of surviving, and even thriving, against the odds. She adds a much-needed female perspective to Egilsson’s memoir of his journeys, providing Asta with a fully rounded personality and a curious mind to explore the new world she finds herself in...This is an impressive debut from Magnusson who seems to have inherited her Icelandic ancestors’ talent for beguiling storytelling.