25 November 2011

The Tenth Gift by Jane Johnson

The Tenth Gift by Jane Johnson

Published: 6 May 2008 by Crown Publishing Group

Pages: 400 (hardcover)

Genre/s: Historical Fiction, Contemporary Fiction

Source: Own library

Check it Out: Goodreads ~ Amazon ~ Amazon UK ~ The Book Depository


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?

My Thoughts

The Tenth Gift was such a different premise to my current reading that I admit I found it difficult to get my head into a non-zombie, non-post-apocalyptic state of mind, and it has taken me nearly a month to complete. Not because I didn’t enjoy it, but because I kept getting distracted by all the other books on my e-shelf.

I read a lot of reviews of this book before I started reading this book (something I rarely do), and the overwhelming majority of readers either didn’t respect, or found it hard to connect with the main character, Julia, mainly due to her choices in life. Personally, I didn’t have that problem – sure, I didn’t agree with some of her life choices, but I could understand why she made some of those choices.

The character of Cat is particularly engaging – the journal excerpts are written in 17th century English which can be hard to read, until you get used to it, and her fiery, independent character make her the ultimate heroine of this book. The dedication of Rob is sweet but does stretch the imagination a little.

There is a focus on Moroccan and 17th century English history, and the history of embroidery and needlework in the middle-east and England, which adds an extra point of interest.

I’m undecided on this one – there were some very interesting parts, and some that just felt like padding.

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