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3.89  ·  Rating details ·  1,082 ratings  ·  245 reviews
Donald is a young fisherman, eking out a lonely living on the west coast of Scotland. One night he witnesses something miraculous, and makes a terrible mistake. His action changes lives—not only his own, but those of his family and the entire tightly knit community in which they live. Can he ever atone for the wrong he has done, and can love grow when its foundation is ...more
Kindle Edition, 276 pages
Published December 15th 2016 by Orenda Books
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Average rating 3.89  · 
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Always Pouting
Apr 23, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Donald is a young boy living with his mother on the west coast of Scotland in a village that makes it's livelihood off of fishing. Unfortunately Donald has a skin problem that makes it hard for him to go out on the fishing boats and make him a target of frequent teasing. One day when running out on his mother after she tells him his uncle wants him to come out fishing, Donald goes to check on his crab traps when he sees something unusual. He watches as a group of seal slip off their skin and ...more
Amalia Gavea
"It was the dark of the year now, the time of small, drab days and endless freezing nights, the time for sitting by the fire, mending and making and telling the old tales."

If you follow my reviews, you'd have realized that myths, folk legend and magical realism are very close to my heart. Throw a haunting story in the mix and you have possibly created my perfect read. Unfortunately, I found Sealskin to be a rather average effort.

The myth of the Selkie, the seal that turns into a young woman
Heidi The Reader
One night, Donald, a fisherman, sees a strange sight along the shore. Seals come out of the water, take off their skins and dance about on the sand as women. "There were seals on the skerry tonight... Moonlight silvered everything, casting doubt and shadow. So he scrubbed at his eyes and look again, but they were still rolling, rising up, standing and stepping out of their heavy skins, helping each other to get free." loc 70, ebook.

These beings are selkies, magical creatures who live as seals in
Miriam Smith
Aug 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: orenda, twitter
Enchanting, enthralling, charismatic and mesmerising, this book really is a thing of beauty! I'd been wanting to read it for ages and I was over the moon to win it in a Twitter competition. I was not disappointed, I truly adored every word and now I just want to start reading it all over again!
There's a Scottish legend about Water Selkies -'Seal Folk' who are mythological beings capable of changing from seal to human form by shedding their skin. These selkie folk have been recounted many times
Maria Hill AKA MH Books
Selkies are Scottish mythological seals who can shed their skin to become human on land. This tale follows the narrative of the most common story told legend.

With this old legend comes a problematic beginning to this story and I am not sure the author was able to justify the initial behaviour of Arthur or his mother. However, despite my protests, Su Bristow eventually won me over with this slow burning tale set on the West Coast of Scotland of what it means to be human.
Jun 13, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
“On a night like this, with the vastness of the sea and the sky all to himself, a man might witness marvels.”

Now I like stories involving marvels, mythology and magical-realism as much as the next reader, but when a woman gets raped within the opening sequence of the book, my reading-pleasure drops drastically. Add a number of other disappointing elements to it, and Sealskin becomes a debut that let me down in many, many ways.

This book is based on the myth of the Selkie: a Scottish
Feb 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: physical-arcs
All of my reviews can be found on

It seems like anytime I begin a review of an Orenda book I say that it will be difficult for me to review because I’ve never read anything like it before and this is no exception. What a spectacular read this was, I have honestly never encountered a book quite like it and am just blown away by the gentle beauty of the story.

I had never heard of the legend of the Selkie before but as soon as I began reading, I was immediately entranced by the
Sealskin is a disturbing mythical tale in modern form.

It is a retelling of the legend of the Selkie. For all of you puzzling over what a Selkie actually it, it is a type of seal. When a Selkie takes off its skin, it becomes human. The most obvious comparison is that of a mermaid. Men find themselves falling under the spell of a Selkie. That is their excuse anyway.

In Sealskin, Donald is a fisherman living somewhere remote in Scotland. He is part of a small tight knit community. This appears to be
Vikki Patis
Selkies are seals who come ashore and shed their skin to become human, and come from Scottish folklore. Sealskin weaves this legend into a wonderfully written and captivating tale. I found the concept of this very interesting, and this side of Sealskin is indeed engaging and beautiful.

But, while all of the above may be true, what is also true is that this book begins with the rape of a young woman. Overcome by her beauty, Donald forces himself upon her, then drags her back to his village. She
Sheila Goicea
Publish date 05/01/2017!

I received this copy from the publisher via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.

The Legend
Once, there was a fisherman who spent many nights fishing alone. One night at full moon, he witnessed a marvel: nine seals came ashore, put off their skins and became beautiful young women, dancing on the beach. The fisherman hid himself, and as he watched, he began to fall in love with one of them. Secretly, he hid her sealskin, so that when the others returned to the sea,
Asghar Abbas
May 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What's a selkie? I think this book sufficiently answers that in this gorgeous, poetic take. The prose, dear God is so amazing.

How can I read this novel and not think of Teeth by the ever talented Hannah Moskowitz?

and of course, reminds me of Song of the sea.

But forget the song of that sea and read this.

It's set in Scotland and it is about a fish. Why aren't you reading it?
Oh. Oh, oh oh. I'm really not sure I know how to begin to review this book. What a beautiful story set around an old legend. Such colour and so much beauty in the words. And the story... My full review is to come in Feb but I'm almost regretting agreeing to the blog tour now as I'm not sure my silly ramblings will do this book justice.

If you only do one thing, then go and either buy the e-book or pre-order the paperback of this book. It is very much worth it. Orenda hits yet another home run.

Feb 14, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A beautiful tale about love, belonging, community, hardship, perseverance, nature and sutvival. Very well told. I was hooked from the very start.
Mairead Hearne (
'What happens when magic collides with reality?’

Sealskin is a novel by herbalist and author Su Bristow.

Just published by Orenda Books, Sealskin is something very very different that has caused me a few sleepless hours.

Please read on to find out why...

When I started Sealskin I was very taken aback by the violent scene that unfolded in the first few pages. I found it very difficult to get my head around what happened and how this despicable act was accepted and hidden as the book continued. On
'Do you think you're the only fisherman to go out on a moonlit night and catch more than he bargained for?'

SEALSKIN is a story that is rather hard to like but equally hard to dislike. I remember falling in love with the myths and legends surrounding the selkies as a child, seals who could shed their skins to become human, who would either choose to love a human man or be captured by one. But as an adult I can see how awful and generally problematic this kind of story is.. especially when it
Sep 28, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: did-not-finish
DNF at 6%

I couldn't make myself to read more of this...thing... From other reviews I've read, all the things I predicted actually happen in the book so f*ck that.

Donald, weird kid with a skin condition (my guess is he's half selkie but I'll never find out), sees selkies - seals who shed their skin and turn into human - dance naked in the moonlight. He's never seen a naked woman and we get to know that his weenie gets hard from the sight. Wonderful, eh? It gets better: what is your reaction when
I loved this story! The only thing that stopped it being 5 star was as uncomfortable start.

Based on an old Scottish myth about selkies - seal women. this is a beautiful, magical story. it was a fantastic listen with amazing narration by Angus King. I totally fell in love with his soft, Scottish accent, perfect for the main character Donald.

I had a big problem with an early action by Donald which seemed to by quiet out of character. I think part of the moral of the tale however was that Donald
Feb 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Selkie legend was completely new to me; I’m not normally one for stories featuring the mystical or magical – it has to be a very special story to make me put my cynicism aside. However discovering here the mythical story of the Selkies – seals who shed their skin when on land and turned into human form before returning to their skins and to the sea made for such a captivating and engrossing story I could entirely believe this was possible and that is solely down to the talent of the author.

I generally enjoy selkie stories, so I was pleased that Net Galley sent me an ARC for this book.

I was less pleased when there was a rape within the opening sequence of the book.

I was even more displeased by the way that the protagonist's entire life changes positively because he rapes and marries a selkie, and she "makes him a better man."

Women, even unhuman women, as plot device, generally make me really pissed off.

So, why's it a 3 star book? The prose is really great. The story, leaving aside
Laura Rash
Feb 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
This read like an old time legend and was unique. I had never heard of the selkie myth & it's a very mystifying tale. A love story & the telling of how a community can draw together as family. Quite the blend of so many aspects.

Thanks to Orenda books for this copy in exchange for review.
Mar 12, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-read-2017
The life of a crofter is tough and relentless. One night he sees something that he thought was only a rumour. He makes a snap decision, commits a terrible act and begins of a chain of events that will change him and the close-knit community where he lives.

His mother, Bridie, is quite shocked when he comes home with a girl. When she understands just what he has done and the implications behind it, she conceives a story to tell their friends and neighbours, and Donald becomes betrothed to Mairhi.
Feb 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I honestly don’t know how I am going to do this book justice with my humble opinion! Sealskin is absolutely stunning in both it’s plot and Bristow’s writing style. Right from the first few pages I thought that this was going to be special – and I was right!

Sealskin is a modern take on the various legends of the selkies which are told along the northern coasts of Scotland – in this instance Bristow has drawn from the legend whereby seals came ashore, shed their skins and became beautiful young
Jane (It'sJaneLindsey)
Sealskin is set in Scotland, at an undisclosed time but likely the 19th century, and features one of my favorite myths – selkies. Selkies, for those who don’t know, are mythological creatures who live as seals in the sea but are able to shed their pelts and become human on land. Donald, our protagonist, stumbles upon a group of selkie females and ends up taking one home, hiding her pelt so that she cannot return to the sea. They end up having a family and Mairhi’s presence influences Donald into ...more
Helen (TBC)
Apr 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: tbc
A wonderful debut novel from Su Bristow who shows that she has talent by the bucketful in this retelling of a Selkie myth. This is NOT something I would usually read but the fact that it was an Orenda book (they have published some of my top books over the last few years) and that it was on promotion thankfully made me take a chance on something different.

The author gently and beautifully tells a story which opens with an unforgivable act

The writing is absolutely stunning, evocative and
Feb 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Prepare to be completely entranced bySealskin, amysticaland emotivenovel by debut author, Su Bristow. Set in a small fishing community on the west coast of Scotland, Bristow weaves a magical tale tinged with sadness, regret and violence drawing on the traditional folkloric stories of shape-changing Selkies, and their mesmeric effect on the hapless men thatencounter them.One such man is Donald Macfarlane, a formerlyquiet and naïve individual, who experiences a phenomenal change of character to ...more
Christine Spoors
I had mixed feelings about this book. It's no secret that I love Scottish folklore in books, so was very excited to read a book featuring selkies. I really loved Bristow's writing and absolutely loved the way she wrote about the small fishing community in the north of Scotland. It all felt very realistic and I found myself unable to put the book down.

I must say trigger warning for rape in this book, which is unfortunately a common part of selkie folklore. Much folklore has a horrible origin, and
Apr 23, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I would give this book zero stars if I could. [CW: rape]

This book is a retelling of an old legend. The legend: a selkie (seal who can transform into a woman) is found by a man, who impregnates her. They raise a family and are happy, but as a seal, the woman never speaks. One day, she finds her sealskin, which the man stole from her. She abandons her husband, life, and children, dons the skin, and immediately returns to the sea.

The retelling is very similar and is told from the man's perspective.
Arielle Walker
Not sure I quite have the words for this one yet. Conflicted.
Review to come.
Nov 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Sealskin is a mesmerising tale bringing legend to life, with a stolen, brutish opportunity marking the beginning of an unforgettable and haunting journey.

The initial scene is set with a dreadful act being committed by one of the main characters who has exploited a situation to his own advantage. For the remainder of the plot, under the guidance of his ageing and respected mother, he concentrates his efforts into redressing his wicked behaviour.

I was completely absorbed by the origins of the
Apr 01, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Sealskin is without a doubt a book that is doing extremely well with book lovers. All my blogging friends have been raving about it and I knew I had to read the book for myself.

I have to admit to not being aware of the legend that the story is set around but I think that it brings that something extra to it all.

There is no doubt that this author can write. The story flows very well and it feels very atmospheric.
Sadly it just isn't one for me. There is absolutely nothing wrong with the story it
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Su Bristow is a consultant medical herbalist by day. She's the author of two books on herbal medicine: The Herbal Medicine Chest and The Herb Handbook; and two on relationship skills: The Courage to Love and Falling in Love, Staying in Love, co-written with psychotherapist, Malcolm Stern. Her published fiction includes 'Troll Steps' (in the anthology, Barcelona to Bihar), and 'Changes' which came ...more
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