Publication: April 1, 2023

For the first nine years of her life, she was held in modern day slavery. She saw violence, she knew cold and hunger, she experienced the death of those close to her. It was no life for a child.

And now she is free.

But freedom isn’t so easy to adapt to, and there is so much to learn about life, about friendship, about being loved and valued. Nor can those first years of her life be easily forgotten. There is grieving to do, there are ghosts to be exorcised.

Marigold is a quaint mix of wisdom and naivety, a child who has seen too much, but not enough. That she could not settle easily is not surprising, but nobody expected her to run away. Nor is it clear that the man who finds her can be trusted.

This book is rich in the culture of the island, En-Somi. The customs are ancient, the dialect unique, and the story has a wealth of characters of all ages, from young Marigold whose tale this is, or Jarvis, a strange and frightening fellow modern-day slave, to the ancient bard, Olaf. Pick up this novel and you will find it hard to put it down again, and when you have read it, you will find it easy to believe that you have actually been there.

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Maggie Allder

Nothing outstanding here!

I grew up in rural Cambridgeshire, a middle child in a family of four girls - joined later by an unofficial foster sister. My father was a policeman, my mother did various jobs to help to keep the family afloat, until Dad died when I was 14 years old. After that my mother trained to be a primary school teacher, a job she did until retirement.

I studied at King Alfred's College in Winchester and immediately afterwards at the Presbyterian School of Christian Education in Richmond, Virginia. Later I did a master's degree at Reading University. I don't consider myself to be particularly intelligent, but I love studying!

I taught for all of my working life, in a comprehensive school in Hampshire. Now, in retirement, I have a really good life: my extended family is very important to me, my Quaker community is both challenging and fun, and I volunteer for the non-profit organization 'Human Writes'. We write to prisoners on death row in the USA. I have loved travelling, but right now I am thinking I need to fly a whole lot less, because of climate change.

As is bound to be the case with someone my age, there have been a lot of influences on my life, to bring me to where I am now. It is impossible to overstate the value of a happy family life, of knowing from long before I could express it in words, that I was loved as myself, the person I was/am, whatever I achieved or didn't achieve in my life. The death of my father in my teens had a huge impact on me. We were living in tied accommodation at the time, and could not stay there indefinitely, when another police officer and his family needed to be stationed in the village. It felt like a very precarious situation, although thanks to the generosity of someone in the village we were never homeless. Nevertheless, I have had a deep awareness, almost a horror, of homelessness ever since, and the subject creeps in unbidden into several of my books.

I was an atheist for a good part of my teenage years, despite the gentle example of my mother, but had a classic conversion experience while I was an undergraduate. I am really grateful for this - I have had some tough times since then (haven't we all?) but I have never been tempted to doubt God's love for me. I didn't find Quakers until I was in my 50s. I love all sorts of things about Quakers, but especially the concern for others, for the equality of all humanity, for the importance of integrity - values shared, I know, by many other faith groups and people without formal creeds the world over.

My experience of writing to prisoners on death row has also undoubtable changed me, too. I have made good friends on death row - and no, I have never remotely considered marrying any of them! (It is what people often ask!) More than anything else, these friendships serve to remind me of how precarious a justice system can be, and how people who start off life disadvantaged seem to become more and more disadvantaged as the years pass.

So that's me!

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