Having read Sealskin, I can only describe the experience as what I imagine it would be like to be a selkie slipping back into my seal skin – the feeling of coming home, warmth and unbounded joy in a narrative that is perfectly constructed and beautifully written.
From the opening words until the end, Su Bristow engages and enthrals the reader and takes us on a journey of discovery and transformation on so many levels. The protagonist, Donald, has felt himself to be an outsider all of his life. His mother, Bridie, came to the small Scottish community on her marriage and was, at first, distrusted but was able to integrate herself by caring for the sick and being a midwife to the women. She stayed on after her husband was lost at sea and brought her son up on her own.
Donald has remained on the peripheries of this society. Bullied at school and later by workmates he keeps himself to himself until one evening he commits an act, which changes the whole course of his life. His subsequent marriage to Mairhi and the birth of his son help assimilate him into the community in ways he would never have envisaged. Su Bristow charts this transformation with delicacy and insight.
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.
Published by Orenda Books who gave me a copy of the book, Sealskin is available from Amazon and bookshops.
Follow Su Bristow on Twitter @SuBristow