Author(s): Su Bristow
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--evokes the harsh beauty of the landscape, the resilience of its people, both human and animal, and the triumph of hope over fear and prejudice. With exquisite grace, Su Bristow transports us to a different world, subtly and beautifully exploring what it means to be an outsider, and our innate capacity for forgiveness and acceptance. Rich with myth and magic, Sealskin is, nonetheless, a very human story, as relevant to our world as to the timeless place in which it is set.
Su Bristow's Sealskin is a haunting re-telling of the old Scottish legend of the selkie, which she brings vividly to life in this novel. Donald is a reclusive young fisherman who lives with his mother on the west coast of Scotland. One night when he takes the boat out, he happens upon an enthralling scene - seals shed their skins in a moonlit cove and become beautiful, naked young women who dance and play in the nearby trees. He follows them, and when they notice him they run back to retrieve their skins, all but one whom he rapes and takes back home. His mother instinctively knows what he has done and tells him the young woman will be pregnant, and he must take her as his wife.
I did not warm to Donald immediately (for obvious reasons) but as the book progresses, I began to empathise with his story, and the connection that develops between him and his mute bride - she is full of child-like innocence and wonder, and as such is regarded with great suspicion by the local townspeople.
Full of all the heartache and loss that is typical of the selkie legend, this book captures beautifully a moment in time - the season in Donald's life when the myth and mundane collide and he experiences a depth of love that brings him out of himself as he comes into his own. For lovers of The Snow Child, Burial Rites and all things enchanting. Jemma
Su Bristow is a consultant medical herbalist by day. She's the author of two books on herbal medicine: The Herbal Medicine Chest and The Herb Handbook; and two on relationship skills: The Courage to Love and Falling in Love, Staying in Love, co-written withpsychotherapist, Malcolm Stern. Her published fiction includes 'Troll Steps' (in the anthology, Barcelona to Bihar), and 'Changes' which came second in the 2010 CreativeWritingMatters flash fiction competition. Sealskin is set in the Hebrides, and it's a reworking of the Scottish and Nordic legend of the selkies, or seals who can turn into people. It won the Exeter Novel Prize 2013. Her writinghas been described as 'magical realism; Angela Carter meets Eowyn Ivey'.