What happens when magic collides with reality? 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 – Sealskin is a magical story, evoking the harsh beauty of the landscape, the resilience of its people, both human and animal, and the triumph of hope over fear and prejudice.
The first time I heard about Sealskin was at the Penzance Literary Festival when Karen Sullivan of Orenda Books was talking about her list of books, in particular, Su Bristow’s Sealskin, a retelling of the selkie legend. Suffice to say, I wanted to read it immediately. It sounded amazing, especially as I have such a profound love of myths and legends. It was right up my street. You can imagine my excitement when Karen sent me a copy – ecstatic! And this wondrous book has not disappointed one iota.
One silent night lonely fisherman Donald stumbles upon a pod of seals lying on the skerry. Amazed he watches as they shed their skins and walk up the beach as beautiful, graceful women. The legend of the selkies – seals who can transform into people – fills his mind. Thinking these skins must be a gift especially for him – for they must possess some form of magic – he conceals one of the skins between nearby rocks and watches the women – selkies – dance and play amid the birches that grow along the tide line. That is until one of them spies him. That night Donald makes a grand mistake and is forced to live with his wrong-doing for the rest of his life. But can he ever make amends and earn forgiveness? Can he atone for his mistake?
Watching Donald grow and evolve through the book was a pleasure to watch. And Mairhi. She doesn’t speak and yet she says so much. A remarkable person with an oceanic capacity to learn and love and adapt. She also has an endearing playful side too.
Where this book is based is a part of it’s allure for me too: the majesty and beauty of Scotland plays a big part in Sealskin.
And now, when I go for a walk and see a pod of seals lying on the beach, I’ll be reminded of Mairhi and her story! Bravo, Su Bristow!
This is such a special book. with characters that have immeasurable depth, a unique plot based around the magical legend of the selkies and a voice that is both enchanting and awe-inspiring, this work of art will blow through your mind and wrap itself around your heart. I love, love, love this book. Actually, I don’t even think you can call it a book. It’s not, it’s magic. It’s just pure magic.
Please read and recommend to others. This magic deserves to be loved and cherished.
Magical. Enthralling. Marvellous.
If you would like to buy Sealskin, here is the link
Huge thanks to Karen Sullivan for my review copy!