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Su Bristow eloquently brings the legend of the selkie to life


by Su Bristow

Trafalgar Square Publishing

Orenda Books

Sci Fi & Fantasy

Pub Date 01 May 2017


Sealskin takes the myth of the selkie, the fisherman’s wife and extends it into a novel. Su Bristow’s novel is one of transformation. Not just the transformation of the selkie from seal to woman, but the transformation of the people who live in the village she comes to call home, particularly her husband Donald. Donald begins as a loner, his skin condition making it difficult for him to work on the fishing boats. One night he sees the selkies shed their skin and dance naked in the moonlight. He hides one of the skins and rapes the maiden. Filled with horror at his actions he brings her home to his mother, the village healer. Pregnant and with the skin missing, she cannot go back to her own kind. In his attempt to atone, Donald becomes a far better man and a better husband. Sealskin is a love story of sorts, but more it is about how people can change for the better. Mairi is a catalyst and has a strong effect on the village, particularly the women. There is violence but there is also hope.

Su Bristow does an excellent job of bringing the legend of the selkie to life. The novel’s pace is leisurely, well suited to the tale, but it may not appeal as much to fantasy lovers looking for more action.

4 / 5

I received a copy of Sealskin from the publisher and in exchange for an honest review.



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—evokes 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, 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.

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