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The Tenth Gift: A Novel Hardcover – May 6, 2008

4.1 out of 5 stars 65 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In an entertaining if uneven debut novel from a U.K. publishing executive, dual story lines feature spirited English heroines—a 17th-century country girl and a modern-day craft shop owner—both with a gift for embroidery. As a farewell gift from her married lover, Julia Lovat receives a book published in 1625 and filled with a variety of sewing patterns. Inside the manual, Julia discovers the words, scribbled in pencil over the pages, of Cat Ann Tregenna, a 19-year-old British servant kidnapped by Muslim raiders and taken to Morocco to be sold into slavery. En route, the pirate leader, Al-Andalusi, is wounded in a battle, and Cat and her needlepoint skills are called on to stitch up the man's wounds, an encounter that leads to a tangled interfaith rivalry. As Julia struggles to shake off the dregs of her affair, she finds inspiration in Cat's makeshift diary and travels to Morocco to track down proof that Cat really existed; in the process, she discovers a new life of her own. Johnson imbues her historical story line with a captivating energy and momentum, but the humdrum contemporary quasi-romance doesn't pull its share of the weight. (May)
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“A remarkable view of Barbary pirates and their times, and an engrossing romance of clashing cultures and wonderful characters.”
—Diana Gabaldon, #1 New York Times bestselling author

“This is such a lush book! It transported me to another time and other places, enticing me into an exotic, turbulent world in which past and present are seamlessly woven into a mesmerizing story.”
—India Edghill, author of Wisdom’s Daughter

“What a tangled web Jane Johnson weaves with the opening of a book of old embroidery patterns! Two heroines cross paths across centuries. Unworthy lovers, treachery, ghosts, and pirates march through the streets and seas of modern day England, 17th century Cornwall, and Morocco as each woman tries to find what is most important to her. Discovering one’s authenticity is a story in which time doesn’t matter, and Johnson stitches the threads of both stories into a lovely, enticing whole.”
—Karleen Koen, New York Times bestselling author of Dark Angels

“I was totally enthralled from the first page to the last by this dramatic, exotic, and passionate tale that slips seamlessly through time. Jane Johnson’s wonderfully researched book leaves the fragrance of spices and the rustle of beautiful silks lingering in the mind with images of two exceptional women and the men in their lives.”
 —Rosalind Laker, author of The Golden Tulip

"A gripping historical mystery based on historical fact. A sensuous, richly-textured novel."
—Rebecca Stott, author of Ghostwalk

"Exciting, intriguing, fascinating and also illuminating."
—Rosalind Miles, bestselling author of I, Elizabeth

"Brings to life a forgotten part of England's past: the capture of inhabitants of the southern coast by Barbary corsairs in the early sixteen hundreds. Rich with detail, wonderfully researched, this is a novel that will surprise and delight."
—Gerri Brightwell, author of The Dark Lantern

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Crown; First Edition edition (May 6, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307405222
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307405227
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.3 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (65 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,684,847 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Jane Johnson is from Cornwall in the far west of England.

She loves to 'meet' her readers: you can visit her website at www.janejohnsonbooks.com.
Or come and join my author page on Facebook (cut and paste into your browser)

In 2005 she was in Morocco researching the story of a distant family member who was abducted from a Cornish church in 1625 by Barbary pirates and sold into slavery in North Africa (which formed the basis for THE TENTH GIFT), when a near-fatal climbing incident (which makes an appearance in THE SALT ROAD) caused her to rethink her future.

She returned home, gave up her office job in London, sold her flat and shipped the contents to Morocco. In October she married her own 'Berber pirate' and now they split their time between Cornwall and a village in the Anti-Atlas Mountains.

The next novel, THE SULTAN'S WIFE, which she is currently working on, is set in Morocco in the 17th century and is the story of a eunuch at the court of Sultan Moulay Ismail.

She worked on Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings movie trilogy, spending many months in New Zealand with cast and crew. Under the pseudonym of Jude Fisher she wrote three bestselling Visual Companions to the films. She has also written several books for children, the latest being GOLDSEEKERS.

'"My name is Jude Lanyon and I was born in Cornwall in the year in which they cut the head off a king and turned the natural order of the world upside down."
So begins Jane Johnson's GOLDSEEKERS, and by the end of the first page we know that our hero is "destined to be a finder, and a rich man"; that his mother is a witch or a wise woman, and that this is going to be the kind of magical adventure a child of 8 will find impossible to put down...

...To say more would be to spoil a story that unfolds confidently in clear, captivating language and which involves some unexpected magical people. This is Johnson's fifth book for children and her best yet, with a kitten so brave and imperious as to be irresistible. It's stuffed with great scenes and well-drawn characters.
THE TIMES (26/03/2011)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
There are a couple of subjects that I consistently seek out and read whatever I can find out about them. Seeing as I mostly read fiction this means I end up reading a lot of novels on the same subject- the settling of Australia, Elizabeth I and Robert Dudley, rebellions against the Roman empire and white women in harems. It was that last obsession that lead me to this book, "The Tenth Gift."

"The Tenth Gift" is the story of two women in very different times, connected by birthplace and a love of embroidery. Julia Lovat is a modern woman with a secret-she's been seeing her best friend Anne's husband Michel for seven years and is racked by guilt but unable to give up the relationship. Luckily Michael makes the decision to end it for her and gives her a parting gift of a seventeenth century embroidery book.

Cat is a 17th century housemaid in the richest manor in her neck of Cornwall but she wants more for her life. She wants to be a master embroiderer, something only men can aspire to, and travel far beyond her home But just when it looks like she will stuck forever in Cornwall married to her cousin fate intervenes.

It is the book Michael gives Julia "The Needle Woman's Glorie" which tells Cat's tail. It contains, written by her own hand, a diary account of Cat's days in Cornwall and the fateful day which made Cat one of the sixty or so men, women and children who were taken in a church raid by Turkish pirates and transported to Morocco for sale.

Julia is soon caught up in Cat's captivating story (to the extent of dreaming the events that occurred) but she had no idea of the books true value. And when Michael realizes he has given her a gift worth a great deal of money he begins to try and get it back.
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Format: Hardcover
"Innocent maid captured by pirates, falls in love with handsome captain" has been a staple of romance novels for decades. Johnson tries to give her version of this story lit fic cred by framing it within a contemporary storyline. Unfortunately, the modern characters are all so terminally self-involved that they detract from, rather than add to, the novel.

When the novel opens, Julia is being dumped by her lover of 7 years, a guy she met when she was maid of honor at his marriage to her "best friend." As a parting gift, he gives her an antique book on needlework, because she likes needlework and now she's got all those Wednesday afternoons free ...

Between bouts of nausea at the thought of her lover sleeping with his wife (I guess this never came up over the previous 7 years) she begins reading the book and discovers it has been used as a diary by her 17th century counterpart, Catherine Anne Tregenna ("Cat"). It's indicative of Julia's character that when Cat's story shifts because she's abducted along with a group of other villagers in a daring pirate raid on a church, Julia is annoyed because she wanted to know more about 17th century life in Cornwall.

Cat's story follows a fairly predictable trajectory. First she's chained in the ship's hold with the other villagers, barely fed, forced to wallow in her own and others' filth as people die of disease. Then the captain is wounded, so she's taken to his cabin to tend his injuries. Seems he's not such a bad guy after all - he only kills and kidnaps English Protestants to get revenge for the deaths of his family during the Spanish Inquisition, so it's okay, see?

Julia's segments are told in first person (of course!
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Format: Hardcover
Pirates off the coast of Cornwall in 1625? The abduction of a flame-haired beauty and others from a Sunday service, the captives swept into the hold of a ship sailing to Morocco? Such a scenario would seem the stuff of nightmares and fairy tales, were it not grounded in historical fact. Using this obscure information, Johnson fashions an adventure that begins in Cornwall and ends in the slave markets of Morocco, two women centuries apart caught in the mystery of an exotic place, yet sharing a common bond. Catherine Anne Treganno is the unlikely captive of corsair raiders, Julia Lovat pursuing the young woman's journey as written in a precious 17th century book on embroidery, "The Needle Woman's Glorie". It is on these pages, in tiny script, that Cat pens her diary, few expectations in life, a planned marriage to a man she does not love and the day her life changes forever as she and other villagers are snatched from their church, destination Morocco, to be sold as slaves.

When first the book comes into her possession, Julia Lovat has no idea of its value. Neither does soon-to-be-ex-lover, Michael, the husband of Julia's best friend. Michael offers the book as a parting gift; only later does he realize his mistake, desperate to recover the valuable tome. Retreating from London to Cornwall, Julia at first has no idea of the book's secrets. When she discovers Cat's fascinating diary, she reads the young woman's entries obsessively, fascinated and appalled by the sudden turn in Cat's fortunes. She reads of the hardships on the slave ship, the fearsome attacks on the high seas, Cat attending the wounded after one battle. Two cultures collide as Cat refuses to be cowed by circumstances, even though her actions may bring certain death at the hands of her oppressors.
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