Book Review: The Tenth Gift

Synopsis according to Goodreads:

"In an expensive London restaurant Julia Lovat receives a gift that will change her life. It appears to be a book of exquisite 17th-century embroidery patterns but on closer examination Julia finds it also contains faint diary entries. In these, Cat Tregenna, an embroideress, tells how she and others were stolen out of a Cornish church in 1625 by Muslim pirates and taken on a brutal voyage to Morocco to be auctioned off as slaves.

Captivated by this dramatic discovery, Julia sets off to North Africa to determine the authenticity of the book and to uncover more of Cat’s story. There, in the company of a charismatic Moroccan guide, amid the sultry heat, the spice markets, and exotic ruins, Julia discovers buried secrets. And in Morocco – just as Cat did before her – she loses her heart.
Almost 400 years apart, the stories of the two women converge in an extraordinary and haunting manner that will make readers wonder – is history fated to repeat itself?"

The Tenth Gift is a gorgeously drawn mixture of historical fiction, romance, and magical realism. It’s a novel about endings and beginnings, about taking risks, about making the best of pain and possibly ending up very happy. And also, it’s a novel about 1600’s Cornwall, Morocco, and piracy. So you KNOW I loved it.

I didn’t like Julia very much for the majority of the book. I don’t think you’re supposed to, honestly. But I envied her skill at embroidery (which I stink at- see below), and by the end of the book I was really proud of her for her openness and bravery. Catherine, on the other hand, I loved from the moment she was on the page.

The author does a beautiful job of making me want to visit Morocco (and maybe even Cornwall) with her vivid descriptions, and (I assume accurate) portrayal of cultural differences between Western Christians and Eastern Muslims. She also does a great job keeping characters grey- there are no flawless characters, nor mustache-twirling villains, here.

Overall, I highly recommend this book for lovers of fiction (contemporary, historic, or both), ensemble casts, seamless weaving of researched historical facts with fictional adventure, sweet romance, the romanticism of northern Africa, embroidery (or any fibre art), and magical realism.

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