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The Tenth Gift    by Jane Johnson order for
Tenth Gift
by Jane Johnson
Order:  USA  Can
Crown, 2008 (2008)
Hardcover, CD, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Joan Burton

Julia Lovat and her married lover have just broken up. As a parting gift he gives her a seventeenth century pattern book of embroidery. Looking through the old book, Julia discovers that someone has used it as their diary. She finds the name of Catherine Tregenna, whose entries are dated 1625. Reading the diary, Julia learns that Catherine also grew up in Cornwall England - four hundred years earlier.

Catherine or 'Cat' was born and raised in Cornwall and worked as a servant for the Mistress of Kenegie. At nineteen years of age Cat yearned for more excitement in her life and dreamed of traveling to far away places. She was expected to marry her cousin, Robert Bolitho, but found him very boring. One day while Cat was at church, Muslim pirates anchored off the coast and took all the parishioners as captives on their ship. Men, women, and children were taken to Morocco in Northern Africa to be sold as slaves. The voyage was brutal, with little food and water, and poor living conditions. Many died before they reached their destination.

Cat feared for her life when a battle broke out on the ship, but when the pirate leader was hurt, Cat was taken to his private quarters to stitch his wounds. She was already known for her fine needle work. Afterwards, she was given food, hot baths, and a comfortable bed to sleep in. In her embroidery book, she wrote what she thought would be the last entries of her life.

Now four centuries later Julia decides to set out for Morocco to try and find out more of Cat's story. She has learned through old documents that raids on southern England actually took place in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. While in beautiful Morocco, Julia uncovers secrets that have been hidden for years and discovers how her life is joined with Cat's. Like Cat before her, Julia falls in love with the country and her heart is joined with another.

The Tenth Gift is an amazing read. It interweaves past and present, with strands of love, mystery, and history. Though this story is fiction, corsairs' raids on England did happen, local people were taken to Africa as slaves - and one of author Jane Johnson's own ancestors was among those abducted.

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