Song of the Sea Maid – Portugal – Rebecca Mascull

sea maid

Why a booktrail?

A poor woman makes an important scientific discovery in times past but will she be remembered or ridiculed?

From London to the islands of Portugal, this is the story of a woman on the biggest mission of her life

Story in a nutshell

In the 18th century, Dawnay Price is something of an anomaly.

Born a foundling, she taught herself to read by candlelight and her tough start in life only makes her more determined to make her mark on the world.

But this is a traditional and man made world where the world looks down upon the achievements of women, that’s if they are allowed to make any at all, and those they do make are ridiculed or ignored. The world of science is one in particular where men are making headway, discoveries and changing the world…or so they think. When Dawnay comes and challenges this, they are less than happy.

Soon Dawnay heads off to Portugal and some still as yet unexplored islands where she makes some shocking discoveries and challenges the theories held by scientists of the day.

Place and setting

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From Falmouth to the Deptford Docks to Peniche in Portugal, the Berlengas islands and the wonders of the animal menagerie which was once held within the walls of the Tower of London…oh and Charmouth..

Berlenga The biggest island of those Dawnay discovers and explores Berlenga Sao Jao Fortress is a landmark site on the island Peniche The town where Dawnay stays for a while The Estelas inlets a Source of discovery for Dawnay - Farilhao Grande in particular Minorca “We dock safely at the western port of Ciutadella at Minorca.” Port Mahon Lies to the East of the island and Dawnay thinks would be a better place to land
Berlenga
The biggest island of those Dawnay discovers and explores
Berlenga Sao Jao Fortress is a landmark site on the island
Peniche
The town where Dawnay stays for a while
The Estelas inlets
a Source of discovery for Dawnay – Farilhao Grande in particular
Minorca
“We dock safely at the western port of Ciutadella at Minorca.”
Port Mahon
Lies to the East of the island and Dawnay thinks would be a better place to land

Dawnay’s journey of discovery takes her from the poverty of a London orphanage to the stunning Berlengas archipelago, the island of Minorca and the cool crisp blue waters of the Mediterranean of the 18th century.

Travelling by boat in a time where single women did not travel alone and where travelling in explored territories was risky and dangerous. Her soul is described as a ‘nomadic one which cannot be cured by reading from the Arabian Nights’ like the son of her tutor, Mr Applebee.

This journey is one of discovery, exploration, wonderment, scientific importance and wonderful evocative images of seeing new lands, plants, animals, people and a whole new world.

The Berlengas islands are stunning, with caves full of hidden treasures. Arriving at Berlenga Grande, the largest island 

The water in this cove is luminous turquoise , almost green and crystal clear. Ahead of us rise stately granite rocks painted red, yellow, pink and grey by nature and the sunlight

Dawnay finds caves here and although some are fictional are based on real ones near the town of Peniche. These caves are significant finds and Dawnay’s excitement is palpable. There are sea cows and mermaids – evidence of animals and sightings of things not yet explained by man and science but all the more mythical for being there

From where I stand, I feel the islands throb around me with independent existence, rich with industry and a battle for survival, against each other, against the pounding sea and the scouring wind.

A journey of many fascinating discoveries and one woman in a sea of men who must do everything to keep afloat

Bookish musings

‘They have slackened my rope and given me a taste of the world beyond my fence. And I will have more of it, mark my words’

From the heartbreaking days in the orphanage to the  series of events which sees her boarding a ship to Portugal, I was with Dawnay all the way. Her voice, vision and intelligence puts others to shame and you just know she’s getting to Portugal one was or another

What would have happened had this lady and others like her had not made their discoveries? Would Darwin and other male scientists which followed have been able to do what they did? The author calls her the wrong person at the wrong time of history and that in itself is a sobering thought when reading the novel.

The research is outstanding but never gets in the way of plot. I was there with a notebook wanting to discover things as she did, marvelling at the pictures which formed inside my mind. The historical notes at the back of the books simply added to the overall excitement that this was based on real facts.

The clever weaving of real life historical events, such as the Lisbon earthquake really added to the overall atmosphere and time of the novel.

Quite a discovery!

Strange Girls and Ordinary Women – Madeira – Morgan McCarthy

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Madeira. Three very different women who at first seem to have no apparent links to one another find their lives intertwined in very strange ways

Story in a nutshell

An enjoyable book featuring 3 interesting but very different women – Alice,Vic,and Kaya 

One is a doctor’s wife, one a hotel manager in Madeira  and the other dreaming of life away from her family and to a better place.

From London to Madeira we follow their lives and the, at first, invisible threads that keep them linked together. The blurb of the book says We all see what we want to see’ and this is the intriguing tag line that draws you right in.

Female intuition, the other woman, loyalty and the will to survive

Place and setting

Portugal and the island of Madeira
Portugal and the island of Madeira

Vic lives in Madeira and thinks of her return to England and tries to remember what it is like – 

Vic can’t summon many clear memories of England…

…she thinks of rain and cucumber sandwiches…..

Meanwhile, Madeira is

The cooled glamour of the grand era of hotels of the time when Madeira was the jewel of the crown of the colonial classes

Perhaps the saddest place we visit here is The Purple Tiger, the town’s only strip club

As well as Madeira, we also get a glimpse of London and Paris we also get a snapshot of a brief visit to Paris too and the graves of Sartre and De Beauvoir

But the real journey is the space between these three very different women