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Book Club: The Seven Skins of Esther Wilding

by Holly Ringland, reviewed by Tess.

Holly Ringland’s delightful and moving second novel is a highly recommended addition to any bookshelf. She weaves a tale of magic and nature and music based on Scandinavian fairy tales and legends.

The story revolves around Esther and her infinite love for her sister, Aura, who has disappeared. The family has fractured since the disappearance and they are all struggling with the loss. Esther sets out to discover the mystery of Aura’s last few months. A journey that takes her, reluctantly, from home in Tasmania to Denmark and the Faroe Islands.

While reconnecting with her family roots, Esther discovers myths, legends and symbols that begin a transformation in her as she finds the courage to allow herself to be immersed in grief and joy and love. The local stories and legends are fascinating, and then she adds another dimension with the ‘back to the 80’s’ themes, introducing fun cultural references from those years.

Initially I couldn’t relate to Esther, I found her tiresome and slightly irritating. It took a while for me to get into the book. But the writing is so delightful and almost musical, it is impossible to not become enthralled. In retrospect, I realise that this was about her journey and she didn’t really like the person she was either. Esther at the end is a different person. She had unresolved issues to face and Holly Ringland actually writes so beautifully about the pain of grief and loss and family conflict. Ringland’s prose is magical and written with gentleness.

I thoroughly enjoyed being transported to Scandinavia through Esther’s eyes, and the ending was satisfying.

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