Title: The Blue Salt Road
Author: Joanne M. Harris
Illustrated by: Bonnie Helen Hawkins
Publication date: November 15, 2018
Length: 215 pages
Genre: Fantasy/fairy tale
An earthly nourris sits and sings
And aye she sings, “Ba lilly wean,
Little ken I my bairn’s father,
Far less the land that he staps in.
(Child Ballad, no. 113)
So begins a stunning tale of love, loss and revenge, against a powerful backdrop of adventure on the high seas, and drama on the land. The Blue Salt Road balances passion and loss, love and violence and draws on nature and folklore to weave a stunning modern mythology around a nameless, wild young man.
Passion drew him to a new world, and trickery has kept him there – without his memories, separated from his own people. But as he finds his way in this dangerous new way of life, so he learns that his notions of home, and your people, might not be as fixed as he believed.
Beautifully illustrated by Bonnie Helen Hawkins, this is a stunning and original modern fairytale.
If you love fairy tales and mystical stories, don’t miss this slim, gorgeous book!
The Blue Salt Road is inspired by one of the Child Ballads, which (according to Wikipedia) are “305 traditional ballads from England and Scotland, and their American variants, anthologized by Francis James Child during the second half of the 19th century. Their lyrics and Child’s studies of them were published as The English and Scottish Popular Ballads. The tunes of most of the ballads were collected and published by Bertrand Harris Bronson in and around the 1960s”.
This book, based on Child Ballad #113, is the story of a selkie. The selkies swim the northern seas, but one young selkie is drawn to the land of the Folk, the humans of the nearby island. Meanwhile, Flora, a young woman of the island, yearns for a husband who is a prince, and when she sheds tears into the sea, the selkie comes to her as a human, having hidden his seal skin for safekeeping.
But Flora knows the secrets of the women of her island, and she steals his skin so he’ll forget his life in the sea and stay with her always. And oh, it’s just so sad and awful to see him waking up in this new life of his with no memories, but knowing that he’s a man out of place who’ll never belong.
The book is beautifully written, capturing the loveliness and strangeness of the selkie story as well as the passions and family secrets that Flora, her mother, and her grandmother all keep hidden.
The Blue Salt Road is also beautifully illustrated, with black and white drawings throughout that convey a sense of wonder, magic, and the natural world.
This is a quick read, but one to be treasured. I loved The Blue Salt Road, and will cherish my little hardcover edition for years to come!