Last year, when I started asking local booksellers to recommend the best thing they’d read that month, Esther Wilding was one of the recommendations I eschewed in order to pick up a YA novel instead (These Hollow Vows; it was a good call at the time). Instead, we picked this up just after Christmas; we had vouchers, and if it didn’t float our boat, at least it was a freebie.
But once again, the bookseller was proven right. This is sad, and lovely, and I am delighted to have read it, but I would never have picked it up on my own.
Esther is retracing the last journey her sister, Aura, took before walking into the sea and disappearing. Aura was a PHD in folklore and mythology, and she’s left behind her Seven Skins stories, just an image and one line guiding Esther to Denmark seeking their sources.
As Esther tracks down the original art, sculptures and stories, and the pieces of Aura’s life in Denmark come into focus, we simultaneously learn of Aura’s life at home, via teen flashbacks that shaped the stories she wanted to tell, and the skins she wanted to shed. Interwoven with tales from indigenous and female storytellers throughout the years in both Australia and Denmark, this was well worth the very enthusiastic bookseller recommendation.