Ice Land was a satisfying initiation to the history and mythology of the country. Christina Sunley's The Tricking of Freya was the perfect introduction to Iceland's present. Incorporating the myths and values of the past, we journey both to New Iceland in Manitoba, Canada and also the motherland.
Written by a twenty-something named Freya, the novel is an account of her childhood with her widowed mother, Anna, and their visits to Gimli, an Icelandic settlement on the shore of Lake Winnipeg. In Gimli are Amma Sigga, her grandma, and Aunt Birdie, Anna's wild spinster sister. Anna and Freya live in Connecticut as Americans but when they finally travel to Gimli when Freya is seven years old, Siggi and Birdie begin teaching Freya about her Icelandic heritage and her ancestral links to some of Iceland's best-loved poets. Even her grandfather, Olafur was known as Skald Nyja Islands, the Poet of New Iceland. As they return each summer, Freya becomes swept up in the culture of a foreign country but also in the drama that emanates from Birdie.
It's hard to decide where to start in praising this novel. I could begin with the unique voice of Freya, a somewhat unreliable but also very sympathetic young woman. Her first-person account is somewhat jarring and raw but also real. Or perhaps I could discuss the literary history of Iceland, a country that has a current literacy rate of 99 percent. This is a nation that reveres and values its poets and writers. There is also the unique geography and weather of this volcanic island nation. The variety of terrain on this small piece of land is astounding and the presence of endless summer days and neverending winter nights is a testament to the heartiness of its inhabitants. And let's not forget the group of Icelanders that relocated to Canada and formed a "New" Iceland. These brave men and women created a place where they could celebrate their heritage but also build a more prosperous future. And finally, there is the family relationship between three generations of women who have each lived unique lives. All rely on the bonds of family and history to keep them grounded but sometimes this is not enough.
I still feel I haven't even touched on much of what I learned from and felt about this novel. It was an incredible journey and only increased my fascination with and love of this distant land. This will likely be on my list of best novels I've read this year. In case you don't trust my gushing praise of this novel, here are some other reviews from Marie (Boston Bibliophile), Rebecca (The Book Lady) and 1MoreChapter.
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