Women of the Dunes by Sarah Maine #BookReview

It is the women who are keepers of tales.

Atmospheric, intoxicating and filled with intrigue, this sweeping novel is an epic story spanning the centuries, that links three women together across history.

Libby Snow spent her childhood hearing stories and legends from long ago. Now an archaeologist, her job is to dig deeper into the past, but her excavation at Ullaness, on Scotland’s west coast has a very personal resonance. For the headland of Ullaness holds not only the secrets of the legend of Ulla, the Norsewoman, but also begins the strange story of Ellen.

Libby’s grandmother passed on these tales – of love, betrayal and loss – but the more Libby learns at Ullaness, the more twisted the threads become. When human remains are discovered in the dunes, it becomes clear that time, and intention, have distorted accounts of what happened there. Is it too late to uncover the truth? Or is Libby herself in danger of being caught up in this tangled web of fable and deceit?

My Review

When Canadian, Libby Snow applied for a temporary position as an assistant to Professor Lockhart on an archaeological dig on the west coast of Scotland she had an ulterior motive. Yes, she was academically qualified for the position, but she also had family ties to the location.  Libby had grown up in Newfoundland listening to stories of her great great grandmother, Ellen who had come from Ullaness. Here where the dig will take place there is a legend she knows well, of Ulla, a Norsewoman, protected by a Christian priest against a Viking party she had wronged.

But Libby’s task will not be easy. Her boss is vain and demanding, while she also has to deal with a difficult Scotsman who manages the land. The Sturrock family, who have owned the estate since 1745, want as little disruption as possible.  Arriving unexpectedly to do a recce, Libby clashes with Rodri Sturrock and an accident entangles them more than either had intended.

This timeslip novel takes us back to Ellen’s experiences as a housemaid at Sturrock House and we gradually discover the background story of Ulla and her son.  Each strand is eventful and tragic and there are mysteries to solve.  I particularly enjoyed the way Libby became part of a team trying to save the estate from bankruptcy, making it a home for the next generation.  She proves her worth and establishes her right to be part of the close-knit community.

Women of the Dunes at Amazon UK

Sarah Maine was born in England but grew up partly in Canada before returning to England for university. She studied archaeology and for many years worked in the profession but is now a freelance writer and researcher. Sarah’s debut novel The House Between Tides was re-published by Hodder & Stoughton in 2018 and was the 2018 Waterstones Scottish Book of the Year. Sarah is also the author of Beyond the Wild River and in January 2021 her latest book Alchemy and Rose was published in January 2021.

Published by lizannelloyd

Love history, reading, researching and writing. Articles published in My Family History and other genealogy magazines.

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