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Sealskin

Published Date: 6th July 2016

Available in

$0

EBook
9781910633618
£5.99
30th November 2016
Paperback
9781910633601
£8.99
15th February 2017

Description

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. With exquisite grace, Exeter Novel Prize-winner Su Bristow transports us to a different world, subtly and beautifully exploring what it means to be an outsider, and our innate capacity for forgiveness and acceptance. Rich with myth and magic, Sealskin is, nonetheless, a very human story, as relevant to our world as to the timeless place in which it is set. And it is, quite simply, unforgettable.

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‘Told with skill and beauty … held me spellbound to the very last page.’ Amanda Jennings

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‘Accomplished and intelligent … a fine piece of craftsmanship and a pleasure to read’ Allan Massie

‘In Sealskin relationships are explored with perceptiveness and the evocation of the small Scottish fishing community with its diverse characters from wise women to drunken men who treat their wives badly while others look on. The children’s personalities are equally well developed. By the end of the book each character is seen in a different light. Few authors attain these heights of sincerity, artistic authenticity and give readers such a warm glow. Cannot recommend highly enough.’

Anne Coates

Author

Su Bristow is a consultant medical herbalist by day. She’s the author of two books on herbal medicine: The Herbal Medicine Chest and The Herb Handbook; and two on relationship skills: The Courage to Love and Falling in Love, Staying in Love, co-written with psychotherapist, Malcolm Stern. Her published fiction includes ‘Troll Steps’ (in the anthology, Barcelona to Bihar), and ‘Changes’ which came second in the 2010 CreativeWritingMatters flash fiction competition. Her forthcoming novel, Sealskin, is set in the Hebrides, and it’s a reworking of the Scottish legend of the selkies, or seals who can turn into people. It won the Exeter Novel Prize 2013. Her writing has been described as ‘magical realism; Angela Carter meets Eowyn Ivey’.

Online Reviews

‘Su Bristow’s book, set on the wild Scottish Coast, is a ‘thin’ narrative. In it, the veil between legend and reality, magic and medicine, past and present is so thin as to defy description. Like taking a walk on an exposed clifftop above a stormy sea, this book is sure to ruffle your feathers more than a little. Like that same walk – it will leave you with a clear head and an appetite for more. In its pages you will find mystery, cruelty, kindness and community jostling for space in your imagination.’ Preacher’s Blog

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‘Haunting and evocative with such fluid prose, this is a book of beauty and magic. I fell in love: with the landscape, the cast of characters and with the awakening of a whole village. I was there in the pages. I tasted the salt on my lips, I felt the wind whip through my hair, I felt the bitter cold of rain-soaked clothes and I felt the freedom of running through the grass with abandon. This book is special.  January is not yet over and I already know that Sealskin will be in my Top 10 books for 2017. I will be recommending this book to everyone I know. And I will read it again. And again.’ The Book Whisperer 

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Su takes part in a Q & A with the Irish time ahead of her debut novel, SealskinThe Irish Times

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‘The story, combined with the setting and having no sense of when it was set in time made for an unforgettable and mesmerising read that had me lost for words when I finished. A gorgeous, heartbreaking book, the only thing missing was a soundtrack to listen to as I read.’ Steph’s Book Blog

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‘It is a powerful and emotive story which will impact upon all its readers. Very much out of my comfort zone of reading and quite unlike what I normally pick up so I have a limited benchmark to compare and contrast Sealskin with. I very much enjoyed the depiction of the remote community and the environment which the fishermen all worked. Capturing the location is essential to engage a reader and Su Bristow does a marvellous job in setting the ideal scene to let her selkie play.

A fantastical tale which is fantastically told.’ Grab This Book

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Sealskin is really an extraordinary novel difficult to do justice in a review. Saying it’s a fascinating story, which it is, again doesn’t really express what I actually felt about this book. It’s utterly transfixing and mesmerising. The tone, the language, the atmospheric feel to the story – it all contributed to a reading experience like no other. I just couldn’t get this book off my mind and I still can’t now. There’s real power and emotion delivered with the author’s words that truly do the legend justice. Book Drunk

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‘It’s very hard to describe this book without giving anything away, it’s rich and enthralling yet dark and foreboding at times.  The rugged coastal setting matches so well with the tale, almost poetically.  I found that I read this book in one sitting, and try as I might I could not read this slowly.  There’s a magic in the pages that sparks something within the reader and enchants them, keeping them enthralled.’ The Quiet Knitter

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‘The story is wonderful. Can I say “mesmerising”? It’s a word I know I overuse, but I really can’t think of a more appropriate one. The setting is vividly drawn and evocative, the writing lyrical and simply gorgeous – this is a book I could have read in hours, but lingered over for days to savour ever drop of emotion, every detail laden description, every plunge into the depths of emotion that held me spellbound. All the characters in this book – every one of them flawed and human, their relationships complex – has a place deep in your heart, real people caught up in a story that takes your breath away.’ Being Anne

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‘Captivating. Fantastically captivating. Magically captivating. Stunningly captivating. Exquisitely  Captivating. This is the shortest review I have ever written but it says everything you need to know about this book.’

Emma the Little Book Worm

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Sealskin has you holding your breath at its sheer beauty and is one of those books you don’t want to let go. It is a quiet novel that soothes and calms and yet resounds deeply within you. A book I will return to again and again. If you have to read only one book this year, make it Sealskin.’ Bloomin Brilliant Books

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‘The writing captures the voice of the region to perfection. The harsh and beautiful landscape along with the stoic yet community minded people are expertly evoked.  This is proof that a story need not be original to be worth the telling. Curl up by a fireside and immerse yourself in this exquisite tale.’ Never Imitate

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‘As I said before, this is not my typical kind of read, and though I am in a way fascinated by folklore, I might not have picked this up had I not been invited to take part in the blog tour. I am very, very grateful that I was. I did not cry, but the ending really did touch my heart. I, like Donald, will not forget. A hauntingly beautiful 5 stars.’ Jen Med’s Book Reviews

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‘It’s been a while since I have been utterly lost in a book, but Sealskin produced this very effect. Set apart by its difference in subject to much of modern fiction, it held me totally in its grip, and the ending was something special and unexpected too. A book that is tinged with sadness, but utterly magical too. Highly recommended.’ Raven Crime Reads

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‘On the face of it, Sealskin is a gentle tale, a lovely reworking of the selkie fable many of us have known and loved since childhood. Do not be fooled, dear reader, beneath this simple re-imagining lies a story as deep as the ocean the selkie comes from. I was captivated from the first page to the poignant last one, by the sympathetically drawn characters and a mesmerising sense of place. In between are moments of tragedy, moments of grace and redemption; the whole wrapped in Su Bristow’s charismatic writing. This is a story that catches on the edge of your heart leaving tiny scars; reminders of a journey into a beloved legend, the human lives caught up in it and the consequences of the choices they make. It is, quite simply, exceptional.’ Carole Lovekin Author

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‘Su Bristow gently, carefully and beautifully unwraps her story of Mairhi and Donald and the incredible impact their relationship has on the community. With themes of hatred, prejudice, some violence and adapting to change, the author sweeps up the reader and transports them to the furthest reaches of Scotland. The setting is elegantly described, the landscape and the inhabitants are alluring and quite bewitching.’ Random Things Through my Letter Box

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‘I wasn’t expecting a gasp out loud OMG moment in this book but I got one! I am going to remember this book for a very long time. The impression it’s made on me and the deep enchantment I felt when reading it have left a splinter in my heart which is going to remain with me. Completely enthralling, filled with allure, this wonderful book is a MUST read for anyone who like me, loves the work of Eowyn Ivey (Snow child) Ali Shaw (the Girl with glass feet) – Oh blow the comparisons, this is a book everyone should read whatever their genre preferences as it transcends literary comparison by its inimitable uniqueness.’

 Beady Jan’s Books

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‘In many ways Sealskin acts a salutary warning, which leaves us in no doubt that, for all of our actions, be they good or bad, there is always a price to be paid, and reminds us that, so often, after great happiness comes great hurt. And yet, for all of its inherent sadness, there is also celebration and, ultimately, Sealskin is a glorious love story to the myth and legend of our shared heritage. There is no doubt that the literary magic lingers long after the last beautifully written word is ended. He does not forget, and neither will I.’ Jaffa Reads Too

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‘I don’t think any review can do this book justice if I were, to sum up how I feel after reading it I’d have to say that it was a profound, emotional, haunting and mesmerising experience to read this book. My eyes were filled with tears and my throat has had a lump in it since I turned the last page this morning. Sealskin has stolen a piece of my heart and for that I am grateful.’ Chapter in my Life

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‘The characterization is superb, Donald evolves in such a profound manner by the time the story ends, and Mairhi is such a moving character, especially since she never utters a single word. Set in the rugged and unforgiving coast of Scotland, the awe inspiring beauty and harsh atmosphere heightens the intensity of the plot and provides an unforgettable landscape that will take your breath away. I can’t say enough about how profoundly this book effected me and Bristow has told a sensational story that will stay with me forever.’ Novel Gossip

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‘I loved this book, it is a fairytale for adults and a story I was sad to finish.  It gives a real sense of hope, that the unfamiliar can become familiar, and places emphasis on the sense of community, and the importance of forgiveness and family. This is a truly beautiful book that will enchant and captivate you.’ Book Literati

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‘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.’ Ronnie Turner

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‘Su Bristow writes elegantly, with grace and compassion. She has managed to display in her writing the best and the worst sides of the human condition. The lyrical and often magical prose makes this the perfect piece of story telling that it is.’ Reflections of a Reader

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‘In Sealskin, the people are very much the story. The community, the bitterness, the scandals, the humility ~ all shouldered by individuals used to dealing with hardship. This is not a story told in modern times with all the mod cons we take for granted. This is a story of a time gone by where you stood up to be counted, where your contribution to society was vital for it’s very survival. It is a retelling of what I now know is a famous legend, passed between generations, among communities that believe in magic and especially the magic of the sea.’ Swirl and Thread

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‘The plot of Sealskin is quite simple in a way, describing the lives of the fishing village, but manages simultaneously to be alluring and captivating so that it feels as if a spell has been put on the reader to beguile them and ensnare them. I loved every word of it. 2017 has produced some fantastic books this year so far and Sealskin by Su Bristow takes its place amongst the very best. What a book. It is, quite simply, outstanding.’ Linda’s Book Bag

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‘‘Sealskin’ my friends, is exactly why I am basing my opinion of this dazzling storyline by the latter; the overall concept and Su’s outstanding, modern take on mythology’s sought after legend; the selkies. A lot of people could learn many, many things from this novel, IE not taking things at face value and learning how the best part of a person/life is hidden because it’s the most valuable; their heart. Incredible.’ The Writing Garnet

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‘I went into Sealskin hoping that I would love it, and I did. Every word of it. For me, reading Sealskin was reminiscent of my experience of reading The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern or The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey. There aren’t many books I can think of that have had this all encompassing effect on me while transporting me to another world, which stays with me so vividly for years to come, but I’m adding Sealskin to that list.’ Cosy Books

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‘Sealskin is perhaps the most beautiful book I have read in a long time.  I was captured in its net from chapter 1 and only released when I had turned the final breathtaking page.  Su Bristow has such lyrical writing that I felt as if I was in the book myself, standing at the door of the cottage or watching the fishing boats coming back to shore.  I had serious difficulty in putting the book down and, had I not been going out, would have read Sealskin in one sitting …  Sealskin is a bucketful of adjectives: beautiful, breathtaking, magnificent, exceptional, outstanding and magical…to name but a few.’

 The Book Magnet

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‘My message is simple. ‘Just read it for yourself and enjoy the magic and beauty’ A novel for 2017 that will not be forgotten by me. My mind goes back to March 2014 and watching Su Bristow collecting the 2013 Exeter Novel Award and I for one am so pleased I was present. I have no idea how Su Bristow is going to follow up this but I for one can only hope for more.’

The Last Word Book Review

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‘I could say that I found this beautiful novel completely mesmerising that I barely put it down. I could mention that the characters are all so perfectly nuanced and full as to leave me wondering if this were legend or fact. I could say all of this but what I really want to say is that this Sealskin is such an absolute essential addition to any self-respecting book lovers’ collection that if you don’t love it there’s probably something wrong with you.’ Mumbling About

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‘There is a very dark undercurrent to this novel though that I was a bit disappointed by, saddened even but  overall the novel was a song of magical realism that sang to me. I can still hear the whispers of that music now.’ The Book Trail

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‘I was absolutely entranced by the magical world created by the author in this book and even though I was ill when I read (devoured) this book, it completely transported me into the raw, beautiful and natural world of Donald and the young girl who begins to transform his life and his character.  I didn’t want to leave the universe that the author had created in such powerful and descriptive prose that sometimes made me just pause to re-read a sentence. This book is unlike anything I have ever read, so graceful, so profound and a testament to the power of love, even without words.  This isn’t simply a book, it’s a life-changing experience. Simply magnificent.’ Shaz’s Book Blog

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‘I absolutely loved Sealskin and found it to be a beautifully written, moving read. It is a story of love and friendship, of fear and acceptance that had me gripped. Su Bristow has expertly crafted a very human tale in which magic and reality collide. A wonderful novel with prose to savour.’ The Owl on the Bookshelf

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‘This book was so beautifully written in such lyrical style. Here is just one example from near the beginning of the book: The boat was silvered all over with tiny frost-flowers sparkling in the moonlight. How evocative is that image? And this kind of beautiful poetic language appears throughout the book, creating a very mystical atmosphere. Magic woven into the fabric of this captivating book and it certainly had me under its spell. Exceptional story telling and a book I will be recommending to everyone!’ Portobello Book Blog

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‘Bristow has woven a beautiful tale of love, loss, friendship and forgiveness, it has a serious side where it looks inwards into a community and how they treat people who are different to them which is centred on the mysterious Mairhi but also includes many other characters due to their individual nuances. Sealskin is beautifully written, it transports the reader to northern Scotland through its descriptions of the Scottish landscape and the poetic narrative really compliments its content and gives it a magical feel.’ Have Books Will Read

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‘What a story! And what a storyteller! Short chapters kept the pace going and enticed me to read late into the night. Beautiful descriptions gave me a clear sense of place and authentic characters spoke with Scottish accents in my head (always a good sign). A deeply atmospheric novel.’ Joy Kluver

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‘I found this to be a book which needed concentration, particularly at the beginning. It’s an intense story and I read it quite slowly up to around the half way mark and then I was drawn right in and raced through to the poignant and heartrending conclusion. Sealskin is a tender, moving and gentle read. Whilst there is an obvious magical feel to it, it’s so well written that it becomes almost believable. It’s a really lovely story and one which I think will stay with me.’ Short Book and Scribes

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‘I honestly cannot write what I feel about this book. it is a special read and I am sure whoever reads it will feel the same. It’s beautifully written, and wonderfully told. It truly is a rare and unique gem, and one that I will continue to re-read and recommend.’ Tracy Shephard

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Sealskin is not the kind of novel I would instinctively be drawn to. I did find it an extremely dark and uncomfortable read. Uncomfortable because it could easily be interpreted as magical and transformative, when it is brutal and sad. Su Bristow does a terrific job in telling this tale and creating a timeless feeling to the drama. I cannot fault the writing.’ Northern Crime

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Sealskin is a quite delightful and extraordinarily well written book. The language Su Bristow uses is evocative of both the place and the situation. A highly recommended read. Su also takes part in a Q & A with Trip Fiction, as part of the blog tour.’

Trip Fiction

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Su talks about 5 books that have influenced her as part of the blog tour. By the Letter Book Reviews

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Su talks about the setting of the book with The Book Trail

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Sealskin left me feeling enriched and in awe. But writing my review has left me feeling dissatisfied and frustrated as it feels impossible to do the book justice. If you love being transported to another world, if you love reading about stories buried in mythology, if you love stories about the human condition, the decisions made by people, loss, love and atonement, then you will love this book. If you relish well written prose then this has to be one of the best examples. Read it. You’ll love it.’ Bibliomaniac

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‘Mesmeric and lyrical writing, weaving a folkloric tale that will enchant you from beginning to end.’

Sealskin is selected as Raven Crime Reads Book of the Month for February.

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The Sealskin book launch took place at Goldsboro books this week. Read about it at Linda’s Book Blog 

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Su took part in an interview about Sealskin on BBC Radio 2 with Jonathan Ross!

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‘The ending was particularly satisfying for me. As it approached, just like I always do, I attempted to second guess what would happen. I could only see two possible scenarios and neither of them was really going to please me. It was therefore a blessed relief when Su found a third way that made much more sense than either of my ideas. The book has received many five star reviews already and I am not going to buck that trend.’ Blue Poppy Publishing

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‘As the story unfolds no one can come into contact with such pure forgiveness and not themselves be changed by it. Donald becomes somebody that Mhairi can genuinely grow to love and in doing so he sets off ripples of his own as grace begins to flow. But do not expect a soppy ending, this is a story about love not romance and love costs. In the end there will be a reckoning, a price that has to be paid, and it is here that the true mystery of grace is revealed, if you can accept it.’ Live Many Lives

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Sealskin is the book everyone is talking about at the moment. It’s a re-telling of a Scottish legend about the selkies, seals which can turn into people, and is a fairly short but thought-provoking read. I was completely transported to a remote Scottish fishing village and one of the really clever things about the book is its timelessness – there isn’t a clue about when the story takes place and it actually doesn’t matter. It’s a multi-layered romance which sits equally well in the realms of literary fiction which is where its publisher’s interests lie.’ Frost Magazine

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‘I don’t want to give any more of the details away, but this book deserves the praise that’s been heaped on it, not least because Bristow keeps all the uncomfortable ambiguity of the original fairy tale. I saw it recommended when it was 99p for a kindle version (I see a paperback in my future) so took a chance on it, and am glad I did.’ Desperate Reader

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Su takes part in an interview with Lucy V Hay as part of the Criminally Good seriesLucy V Hay

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Sealskin was mentioned on Book Love: A new weekly feature. Jen Med’s Book Reviews

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Reviews