History. A Mess.
By: Sigrún Pálsdóttir, Lytton Smith (Translator)
Format/Source: Paperback; my purchase
While studying a seventeenth-century diary, the protagonist of History. A Mess. uncovers information about the first documented professional female artist. This discovery promises to change her academic career, and life in general . . . until she realizes that her “discovery” was the result of two pages stuck together. But she’s already reached the point of no return, and she goes to great lengths to hide her mistake—undermining her sanity in the process. A shifty, satirical novel that’s subtly funny and colorful, while also raising essential questions about truth, research, and the very nature of belief.
I picked up this book after a fellow book blogger featured it on his Instagram. It sounded interesting–the main character is a protagonist! The author is Icelandic!–so I snatched it up right away.
The book was interesting, and in some ways it was also a bit of a mess, lol. I found the book to be more about the main character and her relationship and interaction with her family and with her friends than it was about her work. Her research is of course still a very important part of her life and informs some of her decisions and an object of conversation for some of the people in her life, but it felt like her work was a by-extension of the chaos, her search for answers about her relationships while trying to figure out how to go about her research given her discovery of her primary source. It was pretty funny at times in a weird way, usually in the interactions amongst her family and her many friends (hah, try keeping those names straight).
It did get pretty trippy at times, especially towards the end when memory and analysis started merging into one. I think I need to re-read this one again to really understand it, but despite of this I thought this book was really interesting. I really liked how the main character was a historian and understood the problems that was faced with that line of work. It’s also always exciting to read something from Iceland so yeah, overall a unique read, even though it will require a re-read on my part.