The storm lashes the night, the sea gives and punishes, a legend comes to us in a poignant and evocative novel: Sealskin by Sue Bristow, a review to be written in the waves (foaming) of emotion. There are many stories to tell, in the imagination of Celtic culture, which attracts so much for its powerful suggestions. This book is inspired by one of the most sung legend in Scotland and Ireland. At the center of versions with often different endings are the selkias, mystical creatures, fairy creatures seals, able to mutate by getting rid of the fur to transform themselves into splendid women for the time of a dance on the beach. And then again in the waves. The selkias are the protagonists of fantastic narrations, most often of a romantic type, with impossible loves and fishermen fascinated by their beauty.
And Donald one night comes across an incredible scene on the beach. He is an introverted boy, raised in a fishing village, orphaned by his father because of the relentless will of the sea. Donald sees the selkies that as soon as they leave the skin they start dancing naked between laughter and gyrations. When it’s time to go back into the darkness of icy Scottish waves, one of them, however, gets stuck on the beach because Donald, who has lost his head for her, has hidden the skin so as not to let her go. So with an action that will prove even more ruthless, the young man kidnaps the selkie to take her home with him. The mother, a beautiful key character in Sealskin, immediately welcomes her: a special creature, mute, but capable with her eyes and the touch of her hands to move emotions.
Mairhi’s arrival in Donald’s life will be overwhelming in the consequences. Always lived on the edge of the village, with the fear of the sea, a childhood of harassment and the brutality of the law of the strongest, the young man embarks on an incredible journey with himself and in the context of the village. Unbelievable because this book that has the atmosphere full of thick fog, crackling fireplaces, and fish to dry, manages to push us between the beats of a love that must challenge guilt and expiation, to show us the walls of those who drive away those who are different and at the same time how we can change. Bridie, Donald’s mother, experienced the attempt to marginalize the community when, years before, she came from the hinterland as a midwife and healer. Mairhi’s unconventional personality will expose her and the whole family to danger but at the same time it is this extraordinary character who offers unknown points of view for that small village. Built on a legend, written with passion, Sealskin feeds our spirit with the strength of a wave that breaks on a rock.