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The Seagull's Laughter by Holly Bidgood - Book Tour

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Born in 1973 to a Greenlandic mother and an English-Explorer father, Malik has always been something of a misfit. He has one black eye and one blue. As a child his mother’s people refused to touch him and now his own baby daughter’s family feel the same way.            
On his own now, Malik’s only companion is a guiding spirit no-one else can see, but 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 of living with domestic abuse. 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.
They arrive safely together in the Shetland Isles, but Malik still needs answers to the identity of the beak-nosed man who casts a shadow over his life, and must now embark on a further journey of his own.

The Seagull’s Laughter is an immersive read, intertwined with nature and the magic of Greenlandic folk tales.

I had taken a very rushed leave of my home town, unsure almost to the last minute of the path I would take, or the one which would be handed to me. I was anxious also that I might anyway be refused passage on the ship. Eventually, however, encouraged by Eqingaleq, I had knocked on all those doors which had been opened to me during my short life. I had thrown my heart wide open yet kept the explanations to a minimum. Last of all I had said goodbye to my daughter. She was still much too young to comprehend that I was leaving, yet I could go nowhere without first seeing her and embracing her, for I did not know when again I would be near her. To my shame I could not stop the hot tears that sprang to my eyes, and I held her close until her mother impatiently remarked that my leaving was my own decision and no right did I have to seek sympathy. I did not tell her that the decision did not feel like my own, but that of a force far stronger than myself. I could not deny my blood.
Every detail of my hasty departure was hurled about my head with the perpetual rocking and jerking of the ship. Pictures and memories replayed themselves over and over again with obsessive clarity, until in my sickness they became distorted. Then I saw instead the demonic white faces of bears, the open beaks and beady eyes of birds, and the twisted features of the spirits, laughing and chanting. Then there came into view the crooked countenance of Eqingaleq: his large, flat nosed pushed to one side, broken and misshapen, stealing the symmetry from his face. His dark, ancestral eyes were as old as the land and as deep as the sea: kind, wise and troubled. The painted black lines on his skin drew his face into changing patterns, up into the nest of his wiry black hair.
We had reached land again, he wished to tell me. My relief was to be short-lived, however, as I remembered we had arrived only in Denmark. From here we must endure a second sea journey to England, our destination.
That night as we left Denmark I found myself, in a trance-like state of unconsciousness, face to face with the Mother of the Sea. I was unsure as to whether or not I had desired to behold her; and embarrassed for I did not know why I had come. Knowingly she looked upon me, her long, raven-black hair reaching out like fingers of seaweed in each and every direction. Her eyes revealed a knowledge of centuries. And in a voice saturated with the rushing of waves she told me only that I should tread carefully, that the gull's wings can be folded and hidden away so that only he who dares to look closely can perceive them.
I listened, for surely she should know: she who was courted by no other than a gull who disguised himself as a man. Wearing eye goggles fashioned from bone, set with a slit before each eye, he was able to see yet his watery eyes remained hidden, concealing the truth of his species. He approached her father and asked if he might have her hand in marriage, for so much did he admire her human beauty. The request was accepted, the marriage was made. Soon after the girl, along with her parents and brother as was the custom, moved to the home of the suitor, on an island off the shoreline. But once the bride beheld her new husband's hideous, watery eyes she knew him for what he was. The family fled, clambering into a boat and beginning to row back to the mainland. Yet the gull unfolded his great white wings and pursued them over the stormy sea. The girl’s father, fearing for his own safety, grabbed hold of his daughter and threw her overboard, that the gull might reclaim her and be content. She caught onto the sides of the boat and desperately clung on, but one by one the old man cut off her fingers. When they had all been severed she sank to the ocean bed, where still she lies. Her fingers became seals, walruses and narwhal. These creatures she keeps entangled within her long, greasy hair, until such time as the shaman, visiting her from his community, consoles her and washes the centuries of accumulated salt and mud from her locks. Only when this has been done will she release the animals back into the sea, to the skill of the hunter and the use of the people.
To her, surely, I must listen.

About the Author

Holly grew up in Derbyshire but has always been drawn to the sea. She has written from a young age. Her love affair with island landscapes was kick-started on a brief visit to the Faroe Islands at the age of eighteen, en route to Iceland. She was immediately captivated by the landscape, weather, and way of life and it was here that she conceived the idea for her first novel, The Eagle and The Oystercatcher.
Holly studied Icelandic, Norwegian and Old Norse at University College London. She also studied as an exchange student at The University of Iceland (Háskóli Íslands) and spent a memorable summer working in a museum in South Greenland.
She decided to start a family young, and now has three small children. Holly helps run Life & Looma social and therapeutic weaving studio in Hull.  She likes to escape from the busyness of her life by working on her novels and knitting Icelandic wool jumpers.

The Seagull’s Laughter will be published in November 2019.

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