I forget why I decided to read The Tenth Gift by Jane Johnson (doesn't that sound like a fake name?). Probably because the book had pirates, harems and dual story lines. I liked the dual story lines in The Eight, which could be why I decided to read this book.
Here's a shortened summary: "Dual story lines feature spirited English heroines—a 17th-century country girl and a modern-day craft shop owner—both with a gift for embroidery. As a farewell gift from her married lover, Julia Lovat receives a book published in 1625 and filled with a variety of sewing patterns. Inside the manual, Julia discovers the words, scribbled in pencil over the pages, of Catherine Tregenna ("Cat"), a 19-year-old British servant kidnapped by Muslim raiders and taken to Morocco to be sold into slavery." Then Julia goes to Morocco to learn more about Cat and falls in love with a native...as did Cat.
Who knew that pirates actually raided the coasts of England, stealing thousands of "infidels" to sell as slaves in Morocco and that area? I had no idea about that! Anyway, the plot was believable; Cat wanted more out of life than England could offer her. And her pirate/new master (I forget his name...he literally had 15 and everyone called him something different) gives her a chance to use her master-level embroidery skills on a far higher level than she could in England. Yet she had to become Muslim and accept that way of life--anonymity.
The idea that an English woman would easily give up her freedom bothered me in A Singular Hostage. It bothers me less in this book, but wow, that is something I could never do.
If you read the author bio at the end, you get the strong hint that the book is largely based on actual events that happened to her. While her own story is fascinating, I think some of her own personal struggles and opinions filtered too strongly into the book. That is the prerogative of an author, though.
Anytime you write a book about two cultures clashing, particularly Islam and Christianity, well, it's never pretty. Johnson got a bit too preachy and even had her 17th-century characters saying things like "we all serve one god." Seriously, would someone from that era even think that? Isn't that a modern relativistic idea?
The inspiration of the book is interesting and the book itself is well-written. Some of the plot just wasn't believable....and the one person who gave up so, so much to save Cat gets screwed in the end. Poor guy. Still, the dual story lines worked just fine for me--a rarity. I'd be interested to hear other takes on this book.