While on holiday in Iceland, I thought it apt to read Joanne Harris’ The Blue Salt Road.
This is the second of three stand-alone novellas by Joanne Harris, each using a different one of the Child Ballads for inspiration. This story is a reimagining of “The Great Silkie Of Sule Skerry” with spirited illustrations by Bonnie Helen Hawkins.
While A Pocketful of Crows was a fierce fairytale to read outdoors on a warm Summer afternoon, The Blue Salt Road lends itself to reading in an isolated cabin on an icy Winter’s night.
Once again, Harris takes you on a brisk-paced journey. You feel as lacking in control as the selkie protagonist and experience the reality of that world in sharp clear shards that build up a rich but bleak picture. It is entirely immersive. You can taste the salt on the air and feel the chill of the sea spray.
It is not a light read. In masterfully few words, Harris delivers a violent adventure on the high seas as well as a dramatic domestic drama of love and possession. Themes of identity and choice are the core of any good fairytale. Harris explores this through the experiences of a determined young woman of the folk and a headstrong selkie prince, bringing to life the cyclical nature of families, prejudice, and myth.
There are no villains. It isn’t that Harris’ work seeks to see the good in everyone; she just finds the humanity. Human nature is brutal and beautiful and few authors express this timeless scope like Joanne Harris.