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The Sealwoman's Gift

On sale

8th February 2018

Price: £9.99

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Selected: Digital (deliver electronic) / ISBN-13: 9781473638976

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‘REMARKABLE’ Sarah Perry | ‘EXTRAORDINARILY IMMERSIVE’ Guardian | ‘EPIC’ Zoe Ball Book Club | ‘A REALLY, REALLY GOOD READ’ BBC R2 Book Club’ | ‘LYRICAL’ Stylist | ‘POETIC’ Daily Mail

1627. In a notorious historical event, pirates raided the coast of Iceland and abducted 400 people into slavery in Algiers. Among them a pastor, his wife, and their children.

In her acclaimed debut novel Sally Magnusson imagines what history does not record: the experience of Asta, the pastor’s wife, as she faces her losses with the one thing left to her – the stories from home – and forges an ambiguous bond with the man who bought her. Uplifting, moving, and sharply witty, The Sealwoman’s Gift speaks across centuries and oceans about loss, love, resilience and redemption.


‘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’ Zoe Ball Book Club

‘Richly imagined and energetically told’ Sunday Times
‘The best sort of historical novel’ Scotsman
‘Compelling ‘ Good Housekeeping
‘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

What's Inside

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Sarah Perry, author of THE ESSEX SERPENT
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
Yrsa Sigurðardóttir, author of WHY DID YOU LIE?
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.
Caroline Sanderson, The Bookseller
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
Waterstones Book Blog
An astonishing novel that will stay with me for a long time...Asta Thorsteinsdottir is a truly remarkable and resourceful heroine
David Robinson, The Scotsman
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
A lyrical tale full of the Icelandic stories that Asta tells her children and her kidnappers
Good Housekeeping
Compelling stuff
The Herald
An impressive debut from Magnusson who seems to have inherited her Icelandic ancestors' talent for beguiling storytelling
Elle Thinks blog
Magnusson's prose never falters ... What an exceptional and moving fiction debut this is.
The Last Word Book Review
An engrossing and accomplished novel
Lonesome Reader
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
Daily Mail
Sally Magnusson writes compellingly of the psychological and physical shocks of being uprooted. Impeccably researched, this is a poetic retelling of Icelandic history.
Mail on Sunday
A rich, captivating work
Sunday Times
Moving, accomplished ... Richly imagined and energetically told, The Sealwoman's Gift is a powerful tale of loss and endurance
Radio Times
Sally Magnusson has turned this grim true story into a page-turner...beautifully told.
Yorkshire Post
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.
Sunday Express
Engrossing, atmospheric
BBC Radio 2 Book Club
Fascinating ... a really, really good read
Press Association
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
Adam Nichols
'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'
Sian Norris, Guardian
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.
Stephen McGinty, Times
An evocative, striking new novel ... which brings an Icelandic historical tragedy, and in particular, Icelandic woman Asta Egilsson, back to pulsing life.
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.
Sunday Post
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
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
Lonesome Reader
Much more than simply a vividly-imagined historical novel, but a personally touching meditation on the choices we're forced to make in life
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
Zoe Ball Book Club
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.
Dumfries and Galloway Life
The Scotsman
This is the best sort of historical novel. It respects the past and brings it alive.
Allan Massie, The Scotsman
accomplished...enthralling...This is the best sort of historical novel
Cultured Vultures
I have been banging the drum for The Sealwoman's Gift for a solid year now, still recommending it to every person I possibly can - and it was the first book on this list, the only absolute certainty from the beginning. A stunning debut novel, it is based on the true story of 17th century Icelanders who were kidnapped and sold as slaves in North Africa. The writing is beautiful, the sense of time and place once again at the top of the author's list of many talents, and the magical-realism of the Sealwoman utterly convincing.