21st January, 2023

Review: The Blue Salt Road by Joanne Harris (Gollancz)

This is the perfect book to cosy up with. I read it on the stereotypical "cold and stormy night" and this added tremendously to the reading experience.

The Folk and The Selkie are stuck in an age-old conflict, and young Selkie are warned never to trust The Folk. Still, one curious young Selkie ignores the heedings of his elders and falls for a young human woman. She soon finds herself with child and, fearing that the Selkie will abandon her, steals his seal skin and spirits it away into her cedar chest. The Selkie as a result loses all memory of his old life. Unknowingly trapped as one of the Folk, he finds he has to support his family and sets out to sea on a whaler, not understanding why he constantly feels so cold and uncomfortable - until an old man tells him of the old legends and of his own fate... 

The Blue Salt Road is a story of the sea, a modern fairy tale of love, loss and revenge. It is based on myth, folklore and the Child Ballads - in this case “The Great Silkie Of Sule Skerry”. Harris is a brilliant storyteller who knows how to handle her folk tale material and spin it into her own story: the atmosphere in the book is mesmerising, the characters are vividly drawn and multi-dimensional. Her writing is both eerie and hopeful.

Harris' novel focuses mainly on the narrative of one couple but the author weaves in the history of a whole community and the selkie clan. It's a story that is fundamentally human, with all of the good and bad that this entails. It's about mistakes, about history repeating itself, about remorse but also about hope. Mistakes are vindicated, yet there are new beginnings.

I was truly captivated by this book. Harris has created a story that shocks and leaves you wondering about the capabilities of man. The Blue Salt Road is a must-read for anyone who loves folklore and Celtic myth. The fabulous illustrations of Bonnie Helen Hawkins make the reading of this book even more pleasurable. Very much recommended!

Rating: 4/5 stars

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