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Tuesday 18 July 2023

Book Spotlight: Salt and Skin by Eliza Henry-Jones


The cover of Salt and Skin by Eliza Henry-Jones with a sea background, copyright Isthismutton.com

Dear friends. It's time for another author and book spotlight. This time the spotlight is on Eliza Henry-Jones and her outstanding novel Salt and Skin, which has been long listed for an Australian book prize.

Today is "my day" on the Salt & Skin blog tour organized by Anne Cater of Random Things Tours, in conjunction with September Publishing. 

The Story

Grief-stricken and on the verge of a breakdown, photographer Luda Managan leaves Australia for a commission, bringing her two teenage children to a remote, weather-ravaged but beautiful Scottish island.

Luda, isolated from her two resentful teenagers, turns her attention to the records from the 17th century island witch hunts and the fragmented life stories of the executed women. Min, her daughter, restless and strong, tries to fill up the space in their family left by her father. She soon finds comfort in both the sea and an unlikely friendship. But 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, who slowly self-destructing in a community that is both protective and violent towards him.

When a tragic accident unleashes ghosts and the echoes of long-ago violence and betrayal into their lives, the Managans must confront their unspoken histories in order to survive.

Critical Acclaim 

The book has been long listed for the Australian Indie Book Awards. 

My Thoughts

If you love the writing of Hannah Kent, as I do, you'll love the dazzling prose of Salt & Skin. Outsiders from Australia, an isolated Scottish island, witches, myths and legends all combine in this tour de force from Eliza Henry-Jones.

This is her fifth novel, but my first, so I am thrilled to know there is a back catalogue for me to investigate.

Henry-Jones creates a feeling of wonder, intrigue and mystery. The Managans are outsiders and have fled a tragedy and draught;  on the island they encounter and befriend a "selkie"  (part human, part seal).  Some of the women on the island could be witches;  there are magical symbols around doorways, and in the Managans' house, protecting the town from harm. 

The real star of the book is the place. Henry-Jones captures very well the dramatic landscape and its impact on the characters. "The islands are a place where broken windows and crooked doors need to be mended before the wind works its claws inside. Living on the islands means being in constant conversation with the wind; negotiating where it will go and will not go." 

The need for conservation and care for nature shines through in a subtle way. "Two whales move from the Wailing Cliffs to to the shallow water of Seannay. They beach themselves. Two of them. It takes a long time for anyone to notice. After, it is noted that their insides are full of bright plastic and the grey flesh of tangled carry bags." 

Grief is the over riding emotion at the start of the book, which has a shocking beginning as the family arrives on the island. But we leave the family with optimism and joy. 

It's been described as a remarkable novel and I would concur with that. 

About the Author

Eliza Henry-Jones is a writer and academic based on a small flower farm in Victoria, Australia. Her previous novels have been listed for multiple literary awards including the ABIA, NSW Premier’s Literary Awards and QLD Literary Awards. Her work has also been published widely, appearing in places such as the Guardian, Country Style, The Big Issue and The Age. Eliza has qualifications in psychology as well as grief, loss and trauma counselling. Find her on Twitter: @elizahenryjones

Published: 6th July 2023 | September Publishing

 £12.99 | Paperback Original |ISBN: 9781914613364

Buy it: Amazon, Waterstones

Disclosure:  I was given an advance copy of the paperback book Salt and Skin in return for an honest blog spotlight post. My editorial opinions are unbiased. 

Sharing this post with #AnythingGoes at My Random Musings, Rena at Fine WhateverTalent Sharing Tuesdays at Scribbling Boomer, Final Friday at Marsha in the Middle, Senior Salon Pitstop at Esme 


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There's a round-up of book reviews on the third Friday of every month at Is This Mutton, plus the occasional author and book spotlight. Follow me on Good Reads or Twitter to see what I'm reading.

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