Sally Magnusson - The Sealwoman's Gift - Hodder & Stoughton

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    • ISBN:9781473638976
    • Publication date:08 Feb 2018
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    • Publication date:08 Feb 2018
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    • ISBN:9781473638983
    • Publication date:14 Jun 2018

The Sealwoman's Gift

the extraordinary book club novel of 17th century Iceland

By Sally Magnusson

  • Hardback
  • £16.99

The debut novel set in 17th century Iceland by Sunday Times bestselling author and broadcaster Sally Magnusson

'A remarkable feat of imagination... I enjoyed and admired it in equal measure' Sarah Perry, author of The Essex Serpent
'An extraordinarily immersive read, that emphasises the power of stories, examining themes of motherhood, identity, exile and freedom ... a journey that not only crosses continents, but encompasses tragedy and rich sensuality' Guardian
'A powerful tale of Barbary pirates ... richly imagined.' Sunday Times
'Engrossing' Sunday Express 'Fascinating ... a really, really good read' BBC R2 Book Club
'The best sort of historical novel.' Scotsman 'A lyrical tale' Stylist
'A poetic retelling of Icelandic history.' Daily Mail 'Compelling stuff' Good Housekeeping

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 Ásta, the pastor's wife. Enslaved in an alien Arab culture Ásta 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 Sigurðardóttir, author of Why Did You Lie?
'Vivid and compelling' Adam Nichols, co-translator of
The Travels of Reverend Ólafur Egilsson

Biographical Notes

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.

  • Other details

  • ISBN: 9781473638952
  • Publication date: 08 Feb 2018
  • Page count: 384
  • Imprint: Two Roads
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 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
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
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
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.
An evocative, striking new novel ... which brings an Icelandic historical tragedy, and in particular, Icelandic woman Asta Egilsson, back to pulsing life.
Moving, accomplished ... Richly imagined and energetically told, The Sealwoman's Gift is a powerful tale of loss and endurance
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.
Fascinating ... a really, really good read
Sally Magnusson has turned this grim true story into a page-turner...beautifully told.
Sally Magnusson writes compellingly of the psychological and physical shocks of being uprooted. Impeccably researched, this is a poetic retelling of Icelandic history.
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
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.
'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'
A rich, captivating work
Engrossing, atmospheric
Compelling stuff
A lyrical tale full of the Icelandic stories that Asta tells her children and her kidnappers
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
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.
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
An astonishing novel that will stay with me for a long time...Asta Thorsteinsdottir is a truly remarkable and resourceful heroine
An impressive debut from Magnusson who seems to have inherited her Icelandic ancestors' talent for beguiling storytelling
Magnusson's prose never falters ... What an exceptional and moving fiction debut this is.
An engrossing and accomplished novel
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
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
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
Much more than simply a vividly-imagined historical novel, but a personally touching meditation on the choices we're forced to make in life
Captivating
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
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