The Seagull’s Laughter by Holly Bidgood #BookReview #BlogTour

1973. Malik has always been something of a misfit. Born to a Greenlandic mother and an English-Explorer father, 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.

It's such a pleasure to be taking part in the blog tour for A Seagull's Laughter today. Many thanks to Holly Bidgood, Wild Pressed Books and Kelly from Love Books Tours for inviting me and for my advance copy of the novel.

The Seagull's Laughter's main plot is a deceptively simple tale of a young man who leaves the only home he has ever known in Greenland to travel to England in order to discover more about his father - a man he has never known. However, this richly, folkoric tale with its vividly described landscapes weaves a sort of magic around the troubled lives of the characters within and although there is a sense of melancholy throughout, hope still persists as Malik and Martha's stories eventually become intertwined.
The story is actually split into two timelines; Malik comes to England in 1973 while Rasmus embarks on an expedition to Greenland and the Arctic in 1948, where he is immediately drawn to Ketty - despite having a wife, Judith back home. As I write this review, the weather outside is damp and windy, matching Malik's initial impressions of a bleak, grey England, so very different from his home in Greenland. When a strange-looking white man with a beak instead of a nose arrived in Greenland to inform him that his father has died, he decides to accept his offer to accompany him to the funeral. The city landscape with its constant traffic noise and tightly packed buildings are completely alien to Malik but it's clear that although Greenland is his home, he still felt an outsider there; mistrusted due to his extraordinary eyes - one dark, the other an almost colourless, pale blue - and his mixed-race parentage.
He ends up staying with Judith and her son, Michael but is tormented by his feelings of anxiety and claustrophobia, unable to find a sense of peace. His confused thoughts about his heritage and his fear of the malevolent beaked man result in him becoming incapable of making a decision as he stagnates in the day to day mundanity of work and his excessive drinking. His anguish is reflected by the dark, folkloric tales which haunt him, especially the seagull who cruelly tricked a beautiful human girl into marriage. His misery here is painful to read, he drinks to forget but can't escape the wolves pursuing him, even when the pleasure of music or fleeting moments of passionate offer brief respite. Malik has a guiding spirit, Eqingaleq who tries to caution him, reminding him of his mother's alcoholism and as the book progresses, it's obvious that Rasmus was less the intrepid explorer and more a man desperate to escape his feelings of guilt and despair.
The second half of the book is given over to Martha, who meets Malik when they are both trying to escape their pasts and the first person narrative switches to her perspective. It's fascinating to see Malik through a different pair of eyes and to witness the effect he has on her and her baby daughter, Boo. Martha is fleeing her violent fiance and is accompanied by her best friend, Neil who has often been targeted by homophobic attacks. Despite their different experiences, the three are all outsiders who are viewed with suspicion by a judgemental society - the foreigner, the unmarried mother and the gay man and together they arrive on Shetland, scared and in need of a place where they can begin to find hope once more.
Although the drab English setting of The Seagull's Laughter is instantly recognisable, it is more akin to a fairytale than a contemporary story and the clever blurring of what is real and what is imagined meant that Eqingaleq seemed as real to me as he does to Malik.  When they eventually reach Shetland, the gentle rhythm and peace of the place seems to lift the more oppressive mood of the novel and the beautiful lyricism of the writing ensures that although dark topics are explored here, The Seagull's Laughter is a heartfelt reminder that where there is kindness and love so hope and a sense of belonging will prevail. I couldn't fail to be drawn in by this thoughtful, engrossing and poignant story and highly recommend it.

The Seagull's Laughter will be published by Wild Pressed Books on 7th November 2019 and can be pre-ordered from Amazon, Hive or through the publisher's website.

Don't miss the rest of the blog tour, details are below.

About the Author

Holly is 24 years old. She moved to Hull after graduating from UCL with a degree in Scandinavian languages. She has been writing since a very young age and as well as her novels, she regularly writes folk and fairytale-like short stories.

Holly considers landscape, wilderness and interaction with the elements to be the driving force behind her writing, a passion which has taken her to Iceland, Greenland and the Faroe Islands.

Conceived during a visit to the Faroe Islands, her debut literary novel – The Eagle and The Oystercatcher – looked at friendship, loss and social change. It is set in the bleak wilderness of those islands during the second world war. The Seagull’s Laughter is her second novel.