Thursday, March 31, 2011

SPL Shelf Life [adult]

This review appeared in the Stratford Gazette on March 31, 2011
Written by Robyn Godfrey, Librarian

The Salt Road By Jane Johnson
@SPL: FIC Johns

Niger. Mali. Morocco. Geopolitical names for regions which meant very little to the nomadic tribes who have travelled the ancient routes through the Sahara for centuries, the Berber tribes known to Europeans as Tuareg, and known to themselves as the Kel Imashaghen “The Free People” or Kel Tagelmust “People of the Veil”. The Tuareg resisted both the adoption of the Isalmic religion, and French colonization, wishing to remain true to their own governance and belief system, but few in this part of the world would be familiar with their continuing struggles in light of the more pressing media-matters in Lybia. Jane Johnson’s new novel, The Salt Road, sheds a little light on these ancient people; returning to the same past-present form of story-telling from her first novel, Crossed Bones, this time the past and present eventually collide. When the upright and uptight corporate tax accountant Isabelle is left a mysterious box by her recently deceased father, it awakens in her some long-supressed emotions. The beautiful silver amulet inside the box becomes a talisman that leads her far from her cubicle existence to Morocco, where, in quick succession, she climbs a challenging rock-face, falls, breaks her ankle, is rescued by a Tuareg businessman, is kidnapped by Tuareg rebels, and whisked away to the Sahara. There she comes face-to-face with the past, when her story becomes unexpectedly connected to the love story that has intertwined her own, that of Mariata and Amastan – a woman who faced extraordinary odds to survive the desert on her own, and a man whose natural bitterness is removed not once but three times by the power of love. With her attention to historical detail and gift for lyrical turns of phrases, Jane Johnson’s The Salt Road is a sweeping novel of love and redemption – not new themes by any means, but set in decidedly new surroundings. 

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