The Seagull’s Laughter by Holly Bidgood

I am delighted that the young, British author Holly Bidgood has agreed to join me today. Holly is celebrating her second novel with Wild Pressed Books, The Seagull’s Laughter, with a book tour with Love Book Tours.

The Blurb

Born in 1973 to a Greenlandic mother and an English-Explorer father, Malik has always been something of a misfit. He has one black eye and one blue. As a child his mother’s people refused to touch him and now his own baby daughter’s family feel the same way.

On his own now, Malik’s only companion is a guiding spirit no-one else can see, but one day a white man with a nose like a beak and a shadow like a seagull appears on his doorstep and invites him to England.

Martha has had enough of living with domestic abuse. She compares bruises with her friend Neil, who regularly suffers homophobic attacks. With Martha’s baby, they go on the run to Shetland, where Martha has happy childhood memories of summers spent with her aunt.

On their way up north in a camper van, they come across a dejected Malik, alone again after a brief reconciliation with his father’s family.

They arrive safely together in the Shetland Isles, but Malik still needs answers to the identity of the beak-nosed man who casts a shadow over his life, and must now embark on a further journey of his own.

The Seagull’s Laughter is an immersive read, intertwined with nature and the magic of Greenlandic folk tales.

Holly is 24 years old. She moved to Hull after graduating from UCL with a degree in Scandinavian languages. She has been writing since a very young age and as well as her novel, she regularly writes folk and fairytale-like short stories. Holly considers landscape, wilderness and interaction with the elements to be the driving force behind her writing, a passion which has taken her to Iceland, Greenland and the Faroe Islands. Conceived during a visit to the Faroe Islands, her debut literary novel looks at friendship, loss and social change. It is set in the bleak wilderness of those islands during the second world war.

Excerpt from The Seagull’s Laughter

From the corner of my eye I noticed a tiny hand reaching for the basket of coals, and gently I moved the baby’s fingers away before she could blacken them with soot. I spoke to her soothingly in my own language, for a moment not realising that she would not understand. She seemed to enjoy the sounds I was making, watching the movement of my lips in fascination with round, bright eyes. I said the same thing again, and then she looked up at me, serious for a moment, before a wide smile spread across her cheeks and she waved the spoon above her head as though applauding my efforts. I could not help but laugh. She looked over to her mother – busy at the cooker – to share her enjoyment. The young woman laughed too, caught my eyes, and for one long second I felt as though the world had stopped in its tracks and the weight of it had been lifted from my shoulders. Her eyes were blue, the deep blue of the ocean, creased at the edges above cheekbones dotted with freckles and lips that seemed to wear the perpetual shape of a smile. Was it the spreading warmth of the fire that had brought a new pink to her cheeks?

I heard the slamming of a door opening with too much force – breaking the spell. Neil blundered into the room, clutching a jumper in one hand, his eyes turned towards the floor as though in search of something.

‘Martha, have you seen my socks?’ In the same breath he caught sight of me, as I knelt still on the floor surrounded by cushions. ‘Oh, morning, Malik. Sleep well?’ He smiled encouragingly, perhaps to show that he did not mind my having fallen to sleep in the midst of the hospitality he had shown me the previous evening.

I nodded mutely.

‘Cat still got your tongue, eh? Good, good. Martha! My socks?’ He strode over to the young woman, who was rolling her eyes at him, spoon in hand by the cooker.

‘I don’t know, Neil, why don’t you just keep them on your feet?’

I noticed the toe of a woollen sock peeping out from beneath a flower-patterned cushion, which I moved to the side and discovered the other one. I stood up, and clutching the socks in one hand I lifted the baby up into my arms, away from the stove.

‘Thanks, man,’ said Neil, grinning as I handed him his socks. The baby reached out her arms towards her mother, standing beside Neil, who took her from me almost apologetically. I mumbled something about the fire, eyes averted, then turned and ducked through the doorway and out into the fresh air.

The rain fell lightly, skittered across the water in thin curtains driven by the mounting wind. I took off my jumper and rolled my shirt sleeves up to my elbows, seeking the coolness of air on my bare skin, a call back to life from the drowsiness of the night and the numbness of my wearied soul. I gulped down the clear air, trying to swallow the lump in my throat: the longing for Eqingaleq and his guidance. I was truly lost now, captured within an infinite moment, unable to move forwards, cut off from everything that I had known before.

I stepped onto the bank of the canal. Felt the reassurance of solid earth beneath my bare feet. I sank to the ground where Neil and I had sat the evening before. I kept myself still, listening. I imagined I could feel the vibrations of the rain upon the earth, the relentless, rhythmical pounding of the shaman’s drum as he journeyed to the Spirit world. But it was so distant now, I could not discern the beat. I had journeyed too far.

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