Today I take my turn on the Blog Tour for an absolute gem of a book. Huge and heartfelt thanks to Kelly at Love Books Group Tours for inviting me on the tour and to Wild Pressed Books and Holly Bidgood for a copy of The Seagull’s Laughter in exchange for an honest review.
This is a book which spans both timeline, place and genre, bringing together different stories and different strands to create a beautiful telling of human resilience and self discovery.
At it’s beginning and indeed it’s heart it is the story of Malik, a young Greenlandic man, living and working a traditional and quite solitary life. Born in the years following the Second World War to a Greenlandic mother and an English Arctic explorer named Rasmus, Malik has always felt and treated as an outsider, a misfit. His unique colouring and his one black, one blue eye seem to symbolise his mixed heritage and his own uncertainty about his place in the world.
We meet Malik in 1973, when a strange man, bird like in appearance, visits Malik to tell him the father he has never met has died. Having lost his mother and, being estranged from his young daughter, Malik takes the stranger, the man we come to know as Birdie, up in his offer to return to England with him for the funeral.
So begins a strange odyssey, a journey Malik undertakes to explore his roots and attempt to find answers to his past and ultimately his place in the world. Accompanying him is a traditional Greenlandic spirit guide, Eqingaleq, seen and acknowledged only by Malik himself. A comforting steer through his life, Eqingaleq has a strange habit of disappearing just when you think that Malik might be most in need of him.
Malik finds himself in England, unsure of his purpose, without resources and unable to speak the language. It is the rather dutiful kindness of his father’s family, of the wife Rasmus betrayed all those years ago, that enable him to start to fashion a life for himself.
But this arrangement is doomed not to last. The bonds are too fragile and there is too much that Malik doesn’t understand to make this a permanent home. With the ongoing visits from the increasingly sinister Birdie and unwelcome discoveries Malik is once more forced out onto his lonely journey.
Fate brings him into contact with Martha and Neil. As a young unmarried mother, on the run from a violent partner and a gay man, trying to escape prejudice and hatred, they too are seeking a safe place in the world. Drawn to Malik they invite him to join them on their journey north, to the Island of Shetland.
This book is a journey of discovery. The narrative works across two time frames. The story of Rasmus, told in the third person breaks down the relationship between himself and Ketty, Malik’s mother, providing a level of context and understand vital to Malik’s story.
The narrative of the ‘present day’ is told in the first person, allowing us inside the struggles and experiences of first Malik and then Martha. It paints a vivid picture of a small group of misfits, all seeking to be true to their souls, all facing challenges and ultimately looking to find their place in the world.
Through their journeys we explore the age old questions of heritage and belonging. Bidgood explores the ideas surrounding what we gain from our parents, the choices we make about whether we choose to embrace or overcome our heritage. Watching Malik struggle to get to grips with the English language we come to realise that it is more than a collection of words; that a language is cloaked in and made up of unwritten rules about cultural norms and society. In the same way the Greenlandic folklore, so beautifulLu woven through the narrative, reflects the deep running veins of family heritage and tradition.
This is an accomplished and unique novel. Beautifully constructed and skilfully written, it is a rallying cry to all those on a journey of discovery, those looking for a time and place to call home.
And there is more…
For other views of this charming and unusual book check out the other #BlogTour stops, all listed below.