The Tenth Gift – Jane Johnson

Read for the RIP VII Reading Challenge.

The Tenth Gift is one of those books that happens in parallel storylines –one in the present, where someone has found something that links to the storyline in the past.   In the case of this book, Julia has just been dumped by her long-time lover (who happens to be married to her best friend), and as a going away gift, he gives her a 17th century book called The Needle-Woman’s Glorie (Julia happens to love embroidery).   What she quickly discovers is that this book was used as a journal by a girl named Catherine, who lived in Cornwall in the 17th century.

Julia’s from the same area of Cornwall, and she is fascinated to find that Catherine was actually kidnapped from church one Sunday by Barbary pirates, and brought as a slave to Morocco.  (This is based on historical events that have been largely forgotten, even in Cornwall.)

Julia feels almost compelled to go to Morocco, where she’s able to find more of Catherine’s story, and experience some life changing events of her own.

This is a sweet book – and there are some interesting details of Catherine’s life that are left right up to end (her story is the one to follow – Julia’s is more a story of personal discovery, so the driving factor there is what more she can find about Catherine in each place she visits).    Morocco is vividly painted (I only read after I finished the book that author’s husband is Moroccan, so that suddenly made a great deal of sense), and Catherine’s story comes to a satisfying end.

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