January 14, 2012
The Salt Road by Jane Johnson
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
The Tenth Gift by Jane Johnson
The Book of Love by Kathleen McGowan