Margaret Talbot is an artist living in the year 1901 who has fought discrimination and assault to enter the male dominated world of publishing as a magazine illustrator.
She suffers a life changing crisis and travels to a small fishing village where she encounters many people such as an older woman who becomes a mentor and confidant and the man who carries a funeral urn containing his wife’s ashes and speaks to it as if she were still alive. Everyone in the village speaks to the urn as well.
One young woman named Sara skips, sings nonsense songs and has no concept of everyday life. Margaret fears she may have suffered a childhood trauma, but many on the village say that Sara is a selkie, a magical creature from Celtic mythology who lives in the land as a human and in the sea as a seal.
With the villager’s’ influence and her own self-determination, Margaret strives to discover who she is and what she truly wants.
Plot: Wimsett's novel is quickly paced without the events of the story feeling rushed. Margret's desire to expand her skills in oil paints, combined with the necessity to keep them secret, adds an intriguing level of suspense. The inclusion of a selkie and supernatural elements strikes just the right balance without pushing the plot into the realm of absurdity.
Prose/Style: Wimsett's prose is serviceable. It doesn't particularly enhance the story, but the plotting is so strong that it outshines any weaker elements of the prose.
Originality: Engaging characters and the right amount of fantasy help elevate the novel above standard genre trappings while retaining enough of the conventional elements of historical fiction.
Character Development: Margaret is an engaging protagonist whose ruthless pursuit of happiness will likely captivate readers. Her abusive husband Jonathan is a worthy antagonist and the rest of the characters round out the novel nicely.
Date Submitted: May 13, 2020