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The Seagull’s Laughter by Holly Bidgood
The Seagull’s Laughter
by Holly Bidgood
Publisher: Wild Pressed Books
Born in 1973 to a Greenlandic mother and an English-Explorer father, Malik has always been something of a misfit. 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.
Stirring himself into motion, Snorri took a seat, silently and almost apologetically in the chair opposite mine. The early spring wind picked up once more and sent a sharp gust through the open window. The panes rattled. The ice in our glasses had all but melted.
‘I would very much like to know,’ he said, ‘how you came to be here. In this country, in my house, so many miles from your home.’ As the query came to an end, the wind made a sudden exit from the room, leaving in its wake an open, peaceful sort of quiet in which one could almost hear the swell of the tempestuous sea and the creeping advance of the ancient glacial ice.
‘I was guided here,’ I said quietly, unabashedly, ‘by a helping spirit.’
My heart sank in my chest as I mentioned my absent friend. I considered telling Snorri, there and then, that my helping spirit had in fact gone missing, and it was the continued search for him that had brought me here, to Snorri’s home. But I could not bring myself to say it – what would he think of me? I fought the bizarre urge to smile as I thought about how I would ask Snorri if he had seen Eqingaleq: an ancient figure padding along the Reykjavik streets, perhaps, in worn sealskin kamiks and bearskin trousers, suspiciously eyeing up the passers-by with their plastic umbrellas. But they would not be able to see him, of course. Snorri would not be able to see him.
I glanced back to Snorri and saw that he was looking at me thoughtfully. Yet there was no hint of derision in his gaze, no eyebrow raised in scepticism nor patronising sympathy – something I had come to expect from those who knew only the culture they had been brought up in. But this man had spent time in the far north, that much was true, he had lived amongst my people, taken a woman there; adopted our clothes and customs as his own. My heart warmed towards him that he should understand.
‘As it is just the two of us here,’ he said, ‘perhaps you might like to tell me your story.’
‘The story of the path that has brought you here, and the reason for your journey.’
I looked down at the photographs on the table. Disconcerted by the blurred faces of those people who had since passed away I instead studied the shapes of the mountains in the distance. I saw reflected in them the warm recollections of home, the landscape captured so teasingly in these old, grainy images. I closed my tired eyes, and the windswept Icelandic coast evaporated and was lost.