January 14, 2012

The Salt Road by Jane Johnson

I read Jane Johnson's The Tenth Gift in July of 2009. That story involved the lives of two women living in two different time periods paralleling each other. The story and Johnson's writing stayed in my mind; a woven tapestry that at the end was revealed its completion not its unraveling. I know I'm being overly dramatic here but I've never really come across another writer like Jane Johnson, with her exotic settings, evocative prose and dynamic female characters. Maybe I could call up a few authors that have storylines with similar elements but not the same way of threading together the stories and histories of the female characters.

From the author of The Tenth Gift comes another story of exotic, foreign lands, entwining storylines spanning generations, and the quests to overcome love lost.

"My dear Isabelle, in the attic you will find a box with your name on it."

Isabelle's estranged archeologist father dies, leaving her a puzzle. In a box she finds some papers and a mysterious African amulet — but their connection to her remains unclear until she embarks on a trip to Morocco to discover how the amulet came into her father's possession. When the amulet is damaged and Isabelle almost killed in an accident, she fears her curiosity has got the better of her. But Taib, her rescuer, knows the dunes and their peoples, and offers to help uncover the amulet's extraordinary history, involving Tin Hinan — She of the Tents — who made a legendary crossing of the desert, and her beautiful descendant Mariata.

Across years and over hot, shifting sands, tracking the Salt Road, the stories of Isabelle and Taib, Mariata and her lover, become entangled with that of the lost amulet. It is a tale of souls wounded by history and of love blossoming on barren ground. From the Hardcover edition.

Johnson's sophomore effort The Salt Road, is equally good as The Tenth Gift, and follows a similar formula. This time we are taken to the historical land of the desert Tuareg tribes and modern day Morocco. At its heart, The Salt Road is about the strength of women, and further, is wonderfully insightful about the lives of the Tuareg people. The women in the novel, Mariata and Isabelle, overcome abuse and hardship and in the process find their true selves. There are also good and not so good surprises in store for both characters that keep the story suspenseful. Johnson portrays the Tuaregs as a fierce people fighting to preserve their traditions in an oppressive world. 

I recommend The Salt Road. Its focus on the lives of women reminded me other great novels with strong women within an historical context:

The Red Tent by Anita Diamant
The Expected One and The Book of Love by Kathleen McGowan
Labyrinth by Kate Mosse

My Rating: 4.5


Related Links:
The Tenth Gift by Jane Johnson 
The Book of Love by Kathleen McGowan

No comments:

Post a Comment