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Publisher's Summary

The debut novel set in 17th-century Iceland by Sunday Times best-selling author and broadcaster Sally Magnusson.

There is a true incident in Icelandic history little known outside their culture. In 1627, Barbary pirates raided an island off the Iceland coast - and abducted 250 inhabitants into slavery in Algiers. Among them was a pastor, his wife and their three children. The pastor was sent back on a failed mission to seek ransom and wrote an account of his adventures. But what happened to the islanders? Most importantly, what happened to his wife and family?

Barely a handful of facts is known about Ásta, his wife. How did she survive these terrible events? It's Ásta's space that the author has filled with her stunning novel of love and loss: she has given voice to a woman who, to all intents and purposes (like so many women in history), had none at all. Yet she was clearly remarkable. Captive in an alien Arab culture, the pastor's wife met the unravelling of her identity and beliefs and the least bearable of losses - her three children - with the one thing she brought from home: the stories in her head, like an Icelandic Scheherazade.

Intensely moving, The Sealwoman's Gift pays tribute to the fundamental power of storytelling in our lives, our ability to survive loss and tragedy and the real meaning of love.

©2018 Sally Magnusson (P)2018 John Murray Press

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Beautifully written, compelling storytelling

Would you listen to The Sealwoman's Gift again? Why?

I went right back to the beginning when it was over. Poetic writing. Heart-wrenching story where the spirit of kindness prevails. Thought provoking exploration of religion, slavery and human relationships. Historical fiction at its best.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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A saga for the ages

Sally has spun a marvelously moving tale. It’s a story of women - and a woman, Áste - trying to survive, hold on to family and their own identities in a man’s world, no matter where in the world. It could be a story of 2018, as well as 1628. Katherine narrates the audiobook beautifully, lifting the words off the page in the oral tradition of Áste and Scheherazade.

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  • Fran Brady
  • 03-09-18

spellbinding read

What did you like most about The Sealwoman's Gift?

Such an unusual setting and era - opened a door on a part of history that we know so little about. Explored the unimaginable: what it would be like to be captured and sold into slavery. Went beyond the horror of that idea and told an absorbing tale of change, loss, hope and ultimate faithfulness.

What other book might you compare The Sealwoman's Gift to, and why?

Daughter of Fire and Ice

Similar part of the world. Unusual. A peep into a moment in history.

Which character – as performed by Katherine Manners – was your favourite?

Asta

If you made a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

a life beyond the unimaginable: sold into slavery

Any additional comments?

Beautifully written; excellent pace; wonderful characters, sympathetically created and developed.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Bookaholic
  • 03-14-18

Iceland versus north Africa!

I must say that as idyllic as Iceland seemed, refreshing glacial rivers, colourful Puffins (to eat!), the writing was so good that I could almost feel the cold. From a female perspective, given the situation of being a slave in a warm country with good food and pleasant surroundings as compared with being a free person, freezing, damp and hungry - I would be seriously torn.

Sally Magnusson has woven an excellent work of fiction around this real-life historical incident. I attended a talk given by Sally in Pitlochry when Sally herself read from her book and remarked that it would be perfect if she did the narration herself. However, Katherine Manners did a flawless narration and did not let Sally’s book down at all. Katherines’s pronunciation of the Icelandic family names and places was so good I would not be surprised to hear she was Icelandic herself - excellent.

Even the ending, which I will not spoil, it was not what I was hoping for, but very true to life rather than fiction.

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  • Julia
  • 04-24-18

An amazing book

Any additional comments?

This is such a beautifully written book and listening to it on audible is a treat to behold. The Icelandic names are difficult to pronounce and remember so for the first part I stopped trying to remember who was who and just went with the flow. Soon the main characters become clear. So glad the narrator did the work for me and read it beautifully. The writing and description was equisite. It is a true love story and had me in tears at the end. Just loved it. Well done Sally