The Tenth Gift tells the story of Julia, owner of a small craft shop in Covent Garden whose personal life is complicated by her long-term affair with Michael, husband of her school friend Anna. When Michael unexpectedly calls off the relationship he not only leaves her with a broken heart, but also a gift in the name of an antique handwritten memoir entitled 'The Needle Womans Glorie.'
In devastation she throws herself into investigating the story behind this book and through research discovers that it was written by a young woman from Cornwall called Cat Tregenna who was kidnapped from her coastal home by Barbary Pirates in the 1600s in order to be shown into slavery in Morocco for her skills.
Just as Julia is uncovering these revelations, she receives a phonecall from another childhood friend Alison who happens to live in Cornwall and who has some very distressing news. Julia races down to see her friend to offer support, but then finds Michael in hot pursuit desperately trying to retrieve the book from her. Julia refuses to relinquish the book as she wants to explore Cat's story further, a search which leads her to spontaneously travel to Morocco where she is introduced to a handsome guide called Idriss who assists her initially in her quest to find out what happened to Cat but who she gradually starts to develop feelings for.
Alongside this we have Cat's story unravelled to us, including lengthy accounts of her traumatic sea voyage on a slave ship to Morocco, her life when she gets there and the attempts of her young suitor back home in Cornwall who wants to bring her home.
I really enjoyed this book. There are a lot of novels of this particular ilk circulating at the moment - that is where the life of the protagonist is mirrored by someone in the distant past, the unravelling of which leads to a personal voyage of discovery for the person in the modern day. However, this is definitely one of the better novels of this genre that I have read.
The fact that both of the stories that are told here are so intriguing is probably its biggest strength, as normally there is usually one which is much weaker than the other. Cat's in particular, appears to be well researched and tells of a situation in history that I did not really know anything about. In both stories, Morroco is described wonderfully.
The characters are well drawn, sympathetic and interesting. Cat's story, in particular her horrific voyage to Morocco is told in unflinching detail and in places is quite upsetting. Whilst you can guess for the most part what is likely to happen, particularly with Julia's story - there is quite a surprising ending for Cat's character which is quite satisfying and puts it a cut above.
Both stories are well developed, convincing, well plotted and given a lot of time to develop without feeling that they drag on or are just filling time.
In conclusion, I really enjoyed this book as an exotic, very interesting book telling a story of a time which is not widely known about.