Book Review: Salt and Skin by Eliza Henry-Jones

About the Book:

Grief-stricken and on the verge of a breakdown, Luda Managan and her two teenaged children try to make a home for themselves on a collection of harsh and haunted Scottish islands. 
 
Luda, a photographer, is mesmerised by the extraordinary magic of the islands and soon finds herself condemned by the local community after publishing images documenting the death of a local child. Alienated, Luda turns her attention to the records from the 17th century island witch-hunts and the fragmented life stories of the executed women. Min, restless and strong, tries to fill up the space in their family left by her father. She soon finds comfort in the depths of the icy North Sea and in an unlikely friendship with the elderly and irreverent local ‘witch’. The only thing that beautiful and gifted Darcy cares about is getting marks high enough for entry into university – one very, very far away from his mother. 
 
Until he meets the wild foundling, Theo. 
 
When a tragic accident unleashes ghosts and the echoes of long-ago violence and betrayal into their lives, the Managans are forced to confront the ways that history both hinders us and sets us free. 
 
Drawing on records of the witch trials and folk tales of the northern isles, Salt and Skin is full of tenderness, magic and yearning. It’s a meditation on the absence of women’s voices and stories in history, and the unexpected ways that sites of long-ago trauma continue to haunt the living.

Published by Ultimo Press

Released August 2022

My Thoughts:

Salt and Skin, the latest novel by Eliza Henry-Jones, is a triumph. A delicate balance of fury and tenderness, a vision of raw pain and passion. I am a huge fan of Eliza’s work and have read all her previous novels to date, so I already knew the extent of her talent, yet, even I felt blown away by this one. The way she writes, what she does with words, I can’t even begin to articulate the aching beauty of her prose. She makes you feel so intensely, everything about everyone all at once. She is such a unique talent.

Salt and Skin is predominantly a novel about grief and the deep complexities of the human soul. It’s also a novel of love, of regret, of hope, of history, of women, of prejudice, of resistance. I didn’t feel that any one character was the main character within this novel, but rather, the place was the main character, and all those who inhabited it had an equal weigh in upon the narrative. I was deeply affected by the connection between Darcy and Theo, captivated by Min’s strength, devastated by Luda’s destiny.

I loved the paranormal undercurrent within this novel, the way in which history informed the present, the unexplained woven tightly into the narrative. Climate change is the driving force behind this story, the extremes of weather we are facing and the global consequences of continued resistance to the acceptance that the planet is changing, places are becoming uninhabitable. This side of the story was deeply affecting and powerful in its intent.

Salt and Skin is, and will remain, one of my top reads for this year. It is nothing short of magnificent. Highly recommended to all readers.

Book 11 in my 22 in 2022 challenge.

4 thoughts on “Book Review: Salt and Skin by Eliza Henry-Jones

  1. “Condemned by the local community after publishing images documenting the death of a local child” … such a fraught issue these days, with people getting tense about being photographed in any context, and especially about photographing children. Does the author interrogate that issue much or is it mainly about grief?
    (I’m a bit over ‘grief’ as a theme, as you know!)

    Liked by 1 person

    • No, she does a good job of that. The nature of the death can be linked quite strongly to climate change, which drawing attention to was the intent of publishing the photos. It is interrogated quite well. I should have included this in my review but I was pressed for time!

      Liked by 1 person

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