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A Sweet Sting of Salt door Rose Sutherland
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A Sweet Sting of Salt (editie 2024)

door Rose Sutherland (Auteur)

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"Once a young woman uncovers a dark secret about her neighbor and his mysterious new wife, she'll have to fight to keep herself - and the woman she loves - safe in this stunning reimagining of The Selkie Wife"--
Lid:ancientbookbride
Titel:A Sweet Sting of Salt
Auteurs:Rose Sutherland (Auteur)
Info:Dell (2024), 352 pages
Verzamelingen:Te lezen, Ebooks
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A Sweet Sting of Salt door Rose Sutherland

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Alright so this book starts with Jean four years old and fascinated by some seals she sees when a ship in the harbor explodes. It really has only a small fraction to do with the rest of the story to be honest. After that little detail we fast foward to Jean in her 20's and a very good midwife. She has been working for four years now to recover her reputation and good name... which it takes a while for us to discover why it was ruined to begin with. She is very much a loner until Muirin shows up in labor near her home. Suddenly she begins to find herself becoming very attached to the woman and wanting to help her. Jean at first thinks Tobias is a good husband, but does begin to question why nobody even knew the girl was pregnant. Her questions really lead to some insane troubles for her and everyone involved.

I have to say the book was very slow. I mean we all knew it was a selkie retelling, but we created this language barrier between both Jean and Muirin so that we could have a reason to hold off on the huge reveal. It was incredibly frustrating. I also have to admit the speed at which Muirin learns tasks in the week she spends with Jean seemed unbelievable. The investment Jean had in helping Muirin, and her infatuation with the girl, seemed incredibly fast paced. It was weird because the book moved so slow with actions but like everything seemed sped up. I can't really explain it. Jean was a likable character in her disdain for most people to be honest. My favorite character in this was Anneke because she was just this no nonsense woman who said exactly what she was thinking.

I really don't know that it felt like much of a romance for most of the book. I mean it probably didn't help matters that Muirin was married to someone! It's interesting that once Muirin has enough language to explain things she still holds off and only tells Jean she must find something Tobias took from her. She never tells her what it is, nor how bad of a person Tobias actually is. A fact which becomes incredibly clear towards the last like ten chapters of the book. I have no idea why but this is when the book decides to pick up. It has so much happen at once that it's like wait what? We eventually get the selkie storyline revealed and explained but it doesn't feel like a huge part of the book. I don't know I think this is a nice leisure read but you have to be in the mood for it for sure. ( )
  BookReviewsbyTaylor | May 15, 2024 |
A Sweet Sting of Salt is a lesbian retelling of the story of the selkie wife. In case you need a refresher, selkies are creatures who can shift between seal and human forms. The wife bit comes from the legend that if a man can find a female selkie in human form and take possession of her seal skin, she'll be unable to transform, and he can marry her. So, from a life shifting between forms to enjoy sea and land, the selkie becomes a prisoner of a man as long as he can keep her seal skin hidden from her. Probably not a good way to begin a happy marriage.

Rose Sutherland's retelling of the selkie wife, focuses on, Jean, a village midwife, but also an outcast because she once fell in love with another woman; Muirin, a mysterious woman who Jean finds in the snow in the dark of night in advanced labor; and Tobias, who appears after the birth and claims both Muirin and the child as his. You can figure out the plot from that bit of summary.

What a summary won't reveal is the wonderful world-building that Sutherland does and the intensity of her characters. A Sweet Sting of Salt is capital-g Gothic in all the best ways. Endless snow storms, animals who seem to be a bit more than animals, menace, and silences.

If you're a reader of Gothic fiction or a reader of queer fiction, you'll take great pleasure in A Sweet Sting of Salt. You'll struggle with the bad (and good) choices you know the characters will make. And you'll explore a folk tale both dark and light. Most of all, you'll ache for Jean and Muirin and will regret every moment you'll have to spend away from them if real life is unkind enough to interrupt your reading.

I received a free electronic review copy of this title from the publisher via NetGalley; the opinions are my own. ( )
  Sarah-Hope | Apr 16, 2024 |
A Sweet Sting of Salt by Rose Sutherland is a tale that has been told many times before, but Sutherland is able to make it into a lyrical sapphic romance, combined with a mystery that slowly unfolds. The writing was so magical that the slower pace was welcomed so I could enjoy the beautiful way the author conjured up her retelling of the story.

For being a debut novel, Sutherland was able to create realistic characters, a fantastic(al) setting, a palpable feeling of yearning, and just the right amount of tension to have me wanting to keep reading to see what will happen next… even though I already knew from previous versions of the story.

I am very impressed with Sutherland and interested to see what they come up with next! ( )
  KimHeniadis | Apr 9, 2024 |
I read this in one sitting, and it was no burden whatsoever. Historic fantasy fiction, pretty firmly and lovingly set in time and place and tradition, with more than one lovely lgbtqia romance. One of those books where you, the reader, know exactly what fantastical stuff is going on, yet the main character doesn't figure it out until it's explicitly revealed at the last possible second—but somehow it's not actually annoying here at all! A true feat. ( )
  bibliovermis | Apr 9, 2024 |
Historical Fiction with a Tinge of Myth
Review of the Random House Canada paperback, audiobook & eBook (April 9, 2024) read via a NetGalley Kindle ARC (downloaded March 14, 2024).

”Can not, Jean, can not! Must find my craiceann ròin*.” Jean still did not know the words, and she doubted she could repeat them if she tried, but she recognized them from Muirin’s story. The precious thing Tobias had taken from her.


This is magical historical fiction set in early 19th century Nova Scotia in Canada which is a queer retelling that blends Gaelic mythology with gothic atmosphere. Jean is a midwife living near a coastal fishing village who finds her mysterious neighbour Muirin out by the stormy shore one evening as she is about to give birth. Jean vaguely knew that her fisherman neighbour Tobias had brought home a new bride but the couple had led an isolated life. Jean assists in the birth of the child but is then soon confronted by the husband whose character she begins to doubt. Muirin herself appears reluctant to return home and Jean manages to convince Tobias that a period of recuperation is necessary.

Jean’s caring for Muirin and the child gradually develops into a love relationship, although Muirin is barely able to express herself in English and often resorts to Gaelic words. Although Jean does not understand the true nature of Muirin’s being, she knows there is something evil and possessive about Tobias’ motivations. That will eventually erupt into a dangerous and perilous situation for Jean as she decides to rescue Muirin and her newborn from an apparent captivity.

I thoroughly enjoyed this first novel from Rose Sutherland for its atmospheric setting and descriptions and the way it brought a new interpretation to historical fiction and myth.

My thanks to the author, the publisher Random House Canada and NetGalley for the opportunity to read this preview ARC, in exchange for which I provide this honest review.

Soundtrack
I couldn’t resist listening to Eric Whitacre’s “The Seal’s Lullaby” which you can hear on YouTube performed by the Voces8 ensemble conducted by the composer here.

Footnote
* If you Google for this, the definition which you will likely find is for the Scottish Gaelic Cirein-cròin. The meaning in the novel is somewhat different though where it is meant more as a transforming object. ( )
  alanteder | Apr 7, 2024 |
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The ship was burning.

The men at the shipyard stopped their work to point and shout. People came out from the little wooden buildings along the shore of Barquer's Bay, lining up at the water's edge to stare, chattering with ever-wilder theories as a thing white line of smoke stretched up and up, vanishing into the pale sky. The schooner had only just appeared in the water out past the point; at that size it was a privateer and therefore American, and therefore of interest, although everyone agreed the war was very nearly over and might have been months ago for all the more it had touched them in the village. -Prologue, June 1815
The ship was burning.

"Sorry...?" Jean looked up from drying her hands on a worn tea towel, frowning at the non sequitur. -Chapter 1, November 1832
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"Once a young woman uncovers a dark secret about her neighbor and his mysterious new wife, she'll have to fight to keep herself - and the woman she loves - safe in this stunning reimagining of The Selkie Wife"--

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