A pleasure today to be joining the blog tour for The Seagull’s Laughter by Holly Bidgood, published by Wild Pressed Books on 7th November and available for pre-order. My thanks to Kelly at #LoveBooksTours for the invitation and support.
Such a gorgeous cover – but let’s take a closer look..
1973. Malik has always been something of a misfit. Born to a Greenlandic mother and an English-Explorer father, he has one eye of black and one of watery-blue. As a child his mother’s people refused to touch him and now his own baby daughter’s family feel the same way.
Never having known his father and with his mother and uncle dead from alcoholism, Malik’s only companion is a guiding spirit no-one else can see.
One day a white man with a nose like a beak and a shadow like a seagull appears on his doorstep and invites him to England.
Martha has had enough, living with domestic abuse and expected to turn the other cheek for the sake of appearances. She compares bruises with her friend Neil, who regularly suffers homophobic attacks. With Martha’s baby, they go on the run to Shetland, where Martha has happy childhood memories of summers spent with her aunt.
On their way up north in a camper van, they come across a dejected Malik, alone again after a brief reconciliation with his father’s family.
The three of them find peace and safety in the Shetland Isles, but Malik still needs answers to the identity of the beak-nosed man who casts a shadow over his life.
The Seagull’s Laughter is an immersive read, intertwined with the nature and magic of Greenlandic folk tales.
Something a little different? It’s a pleasure to welcome Holly to Being Anne today, with a guest post on folk tales…and analysing fiction.
I never really understood the point of literature as a subject of study before I discovered folk tales. This happened at the age of about twenty, after years of muddling through English Literature classes, writing vague essays about what the author’s use of such-and-such may symbolise, while the person next to me wrote something vague based on an entirely different interpretation and we all wondered what, if anything, was the point in all of this. This wound me up so much that, in fact, I barely touched a novel throughout my teenage years. Having been a voracious reader as a child, I found that now all the joy had been sucked out of it. To analyse a novel meant to strip it of all its magic and mystery, to ruin it, to transform the wonderful imaginary world that it contained into yet another grim, meaningless slice of reality.
I went on to study Nordic languages at University, with the dreaded mandatory module of Scandinavian Literature. I struggled to pen painful critiques of books that I devoured and loved but fiercely did not want to deconstruct into nothingness. Why, I thought over and over again, would any writer want to write about writing that another writer has written? Where does it end?
Then, after my second year of my language (and, reluctantly, literature) degree, a new friend lent me a copy of Clarissa Pinkole Estes’ Women Who Run with the Wolves. And it all made sense. The author is a psychoanalyst and storyteller; she has travelled all over the world collecting folk tales from many different indigenous cultures. In Women Who Run with the Wolves she has retold, explored and analysed many of these stories, not so much in their wider social context, but rather she focusses on the way in which the stories reflect and symbolise aspects of the human nature. These are the sorts of tales that have been passed down orally through generations, sometimes across different cultures and in varying forms, so it seems safe to assume that they have something pretty important and fundamental to say.
I began to realise that stories do not just exist to entertain us, or to escape into or even to relay to us something interesting about contemporary society. It is deeper than that: they encapsulate what it is to be human; the workings of this big, confusing organ inside our skulls that allows us to learn everything and yet know absolutely nothing. Folk tales, for me, serve as a way to bring magic and meaning into an over-regulated world. They connect us to each other, to our sense of place and to ourselves.
I recently came across a particularly good children’s book retelling of Pinocchio. I had thought I had some idea of the story – of course, everyone has heard the name Pinocchio – but after reading this book I actually cried, much to the confusion of my children. As with many folk and fairy tales (perhaps excluding the disneyfied versions), the themes are pretty dark. A puppet boy with good intentions, who above all wants to please his mama and papa but does not have the resources or experience to know how to do the right thing by them. Time and time again he is taken advantage of, robbed, takes himself away from situations where he thought he had found some happiness, attacks those who try to help him see the consequences of his actions and find the right path – until eventually he feels he cannot trust anyone, let alone himself. Yet throughout his journey there are two defining themes which, in the end, find their way through all the darkness: Kindness and Hope. What this story teaches me, and I hope my children, is that no matter how bad things might seem, and even if you can’t see a way out, there is always Hope.
So here I am: analysing (however briefly) a work of fiction and actually taking something from it that is both poignant and essential. If only the student me could see me now! Since my “discovery” of folk tales I have amassed many, which I keep filed away in the corners of my mind for appropriate moments, bedtime stories, or little reminders to myself when I am faced with a problem that I do not know how to solve. My forthcoming second novel, The Seagull’s Laughter, is inspired by Greenlandic folk tales. The narrative moves through a more contemporary setting, guided and often overshadowed by these old stories of fear and magic, which often have quite disturbing themes. But there is still Hope in there somewhere.
Thank you Holly – wishing you every success with this one.
About the author
Holly is 24 years old. She moved to Hull after graduating from UCL with a degree in Scandinavian languages. She has been writing since a very young age and as well as her novels, she regularly writes folk and fairytale-like short stories.
Holly considers landscape, wilderness and interaction with the elements to be the driving force behind her writing, a passion which has taken her to Iceland, Greenland and the Faroe Islands.
Conceived during a visit to the Faroe Islands, her debut literary novel – The Eagle and The Oystercatcher – looked at friendship, loss and social change. It is set in the bleak wilderness of those islands during the second world war. The Seagull’s Laughter is her second novel.