A haunting and evocative mystery set on a remote Scottish island
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
I wanted to jump through the cover and walk around in Salt and Skin’s evocative witchy world. I found myself reading slower than usual so that I could savour this beautifully written haunting story for as long as possible.
When Luda and her two teenage children, Min and Darcy, move from drought-stricken Australia to the wild and isolated Scottish islands for Luda’s new job recording the impact of climate change on the islands, they are plunged into the folklore and witchy history of their new home while also dealing with their own tragic past.
With the help of her colleague, Tristan, Luda becomes fascinated with the witch markings in their home (perfectly named ‘the ghost house’) and the history of the women who made them. I loved learning more about the history of the 17th century Scottish witch trials through this story line. So often women’s voices aren’t recorded through history and I enjoyed thinking about what those women could have been like along with Luda in her investigation.
Min and Darcy make friends with a young foundling, Theo, who many people suspect could be a selkie. Theo’s story felt so personal, like I was reading about somebody I knew, yet there was also the mythology surrounding his origins that felt so other worldly.
I enjoyed the fragmented nature of this story and, as always, Henry-Jones’s prose is beautiful. Lyrical and both strong and incredibly vulnerable about the same time. I’m so glad that I was able to read it.
Title: Salt and Skin
Author: Eliza Henry-Jones
Published: August 2022, Ultimo Press
Format: Paperback, 320 pages
Source: Own Copy
Goodreads: Salt and Skin