Book Review: “The Tenth Gift” by Jane Johnson

Reviewed by Bev Scott

The Tenth Gift book review by Bev Scott

The Tenth Gift, an intriguing book, consists of two stories masterfully intertwined. One is set in the 17th Century, and the other is set in the present. At the end of an adulterous affair with her best friend’s husband, the husband gives Julia “The Needle Woman’s Glorie.” At first glance, the gift appears to be a seventeenth century guidebook for women in the craft of embroidery. Instead, it is an amazing journal written by a servant girl, Cat in Cornwall. Cat dreams of using her skill to lift herself out of this role and seek opportunities for adventure. 

Muslim Berbers of Morocco make a servant out of Cat. They kidnap Cat along with many of her neighbors from church on the coast of Cornwall. However, she survives the brutality of her captors because of her artistic gifts and her fighting spirit. The lost history of the Cornish servant girl captivates modern-day Julia. Thus, Julia journeys to present day Rabat, Morocco seeking to understand more about the story. 

The Tenth Gift weaves a together a story of love, religious fervor, intrigue and cultural misunderstanding. The story drew me in immediately. And I loved the book’s detailed descriptions of of the characters, conflicting emotions and historic locations. The author expertly weaves the two stories separated by centuries, culture and religion. Johnson writes as deftly as the two main characters use their embroidery to survive emotionally and physically. I highly recommend this book.