Radio 2 Book Club: The Sealwoman's Gift

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The Sealwoman’s Gift by Sally Magnusson will be featured on the Radio 2 Book Club on Monday 19 February.

We have the chance for you to win 10 copies of this beautiful historical novel for your reading group. Please enter by Friday 23 February.

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We also have an exclusive extract available for you to read.

The Sealwoman’s Gift

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.

Selection panel review

The book was selected with the help of a panel of library staff from across the UK.

The panel loved The Sealwoman’s Gift – here are some of their comments:

“This is a very engaging book and a heart breaking story of loss. The book is intertwined with Icelandic fable, which Ásta uses to entertain her children, entice her captor and to keep herself from falling in to despair at the low points in her life.”

“This is a book that creates a wonderful sense of place – of two places in fact – the cold and hardship of the struggle for life on a small island with its rich culture of folk tales told during the long winter darkness and the warmth and colour and different dangers of north Africa. It is the story of two cultures and two religions and Ásta’s struggle to keep faith to her own. It is also a story of loss and separation – first from her husband and then from her children. It is a beautiful story told in rich language. I enjoyed this book very much.”

About the author

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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.

Get involved

Tune in to Simon Mayo’s Drivetime show on Monday 19 February to hear a live interview with Sally.

Have you read The Sealwoman’s Gift? You can share your thoughts with us on Twitter using #TheSealwomansGift or follow Sally.

You can also see what other readers thought or add the book to your group’s reading list.

Want to find out more? Take a look at the Radio 2 Book Club Twitter feed or find out more on the Radio 2 Book Club website.

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