Tag: Books: Scandinavian Literature


Review: Iceland’s Bell

Posted 2 March, 2018 by Lianne in Books / 2 Comments

Iceland’s Bell
By: Halldór Laxness, Philip Roughton (Translator)
Format/Source: Paperback; my purchase

Sometimes grim, sometimes uproarious, and always captivating, Iceland’s Bell by Nobel Laureate Halldór Laxness is at once an updating of the traditional Icelandic saga and a caustic social satire. At the close of the 17th century, Iceland is an oppressed Danish colony, suffering under extreme poverty, famine, and plague. A farmer and accused cord-thief named Jon Hreggvidsson makes a bawdy joke about the Danish king and soon after finds himself a fugitive charged with the murder of the king’s hangman.

In the years that follow, the hapless but resilient rogue Hreggvidsson becomes a pawn entangled in political and personal conflicts playing out on a far grander scale. Chief among these is the star-crossed love affair between Snaefridur, known as “Iceland’s Sun,” a beautiful, headstrong young noblewoman, and Arnas Arnaeus, the king’s antiquarian, an aristocrat whose worldly manner conceals a fierce devotion to his downtrodden countrymen. As their personal struggle plays itself out on an international stage, Iceland’s Bell creates a Dickensian canvas of heroism and venality, violence and tragedy, charged with narrative enchantment on every page.

I had been eyeing a book or two from Halldór Laxness for a long time but it wasn’t until I travelled to Iceland last year and seeing his books everywhere that I decided to pick a book of his up. I decided to go with this book because of its expansive scope of 17th century Iceland and its ties to the Danish kingdom at the time (Denmark being the other place I went to last year). So here we are 🙂

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Review: The Summer Book

Posted 4 August, 2017 by Lianne in Books / 2 Comments

The Book of Summer
By: Tove Jansson
Format/Source: Paperback; my purchase

In The Summer Book Tove Jansson distills the essence of the summer—its sunlight and storms—into twenty-two crystalline vignettes. This brief novel tells the story of Sophia, a six-year-old girl awakening to existence, and Sophia’s grandmother, nearing the end of hers, as they spend the summer on a tiny unspoiled island in the Gulf of Finland. The grandmother is unsentimental and wise, if a little cranky; Sophia is impetuous and volatile, but she tends to her grandmother with the care of a new parent. Together they amble over coastline and forest in easy companionship, build boats from bark, create a miniature Venice, write a fanciful study of local bugs. They discuss things that matter to young and old alike: life, death, the nature of God and of love. “On an island,” thinks the grandmother, “everything is complete.” In The Summer Book, Jansson creates her own complete world, full of the varied joys and sorrows of life.

I had been eyeing this book for ages (I’ve been saying that a lot with some of these books, but it’s true!). Her Moomin comics are popular but I wanted to read her fiction as the premise of her books sounded quite interesting. Well, I finally got my hands on this book and thought it would make a perfect summer read.

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Review: On the Point of Erupting

Posted 3 July, 2017 by Lianne in Books / 0 Comments

On the Point of Erupting
By: Einar Már Guðmundsson
Format/Source: Paperback; my purchase

Einar Már Guðmundsson has achieved international renown as a novelist, with his books being translated into over 30 languages. But when he first burst onto the Icelandic scene in 1980, it was as a poet.

Guðmundsson’s poetry is bold and moving, sharp, sarcastic and funny. The 50 poems collected in this volume have been interpreted by some of Iceland’s best translators.

I picked this book up whilst I was in Iceland. I was looking for something written by an Icelandic author to pick up just because I was there (I try to do this whenever I’m in another country) and thankfully this was one poetry that was translated into English.

Einar Már Guðmundsson’s poetry in a way reminded me of Leonard Cohen with some of the phrases, the infusion of the popular culture he was in, some of his approaches to the subjects he was writing about. What struck me especially was how that sort of punk 80s popular culture he was writing in is very much present in many of his poems. But the ones I like more were the poems about the countryside and about Iceland’s culture and atmosphere; through those poems I have a greater sense of how an Icelandic person views his or her country, and indeed just the country he lives in.

Overall I’m glad to have read On the Point of Erupting which I should mention is a collection of selected poetry from Einar Már Guðmundsson over the course of his career. Indeed it can be witty and there’s a sense of irony in many of the poems he’s written, but I especially enjoyed the poems about the country he lives in, I just had a greater sense of the country through those poems. Definitely a collection to check out if you’re looking to check out something different.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Visit the author’s official website

Review: Strange Shores

Posted 22 June, 2017 by Lianne in Books / 2 Comments

Strange Shores (Inspector Erlendur #11)
By: Arnaldur Indriðason, Victoria Cribb (Translator)
Format/Source: Mass market paperback; my purchase

A young woman walks into the frozen fjords of Iceland, never to be seen again. But Matthildur leaves in her wake rumours of lies, betrayal and revenge. Decades later, somewhere in the same wilderness, Detective Erlendur is on the hunt. He is looking for Matthildur but also for a long-lost brother, whose disappearance in a snow-storm when they were children has coloured his entire life. He is looking for answers. Slowly, the past begins to surrender its secrets. But as Erlendur uncovers a story about the limits of human endurance, he realises that many people would prefer their crimes to stay buried.

I posted about this book on Instagram but I bought this book whilst I was waiting at Keflavik Airport in Iceland for my connecting flight. I think I’ve seen his books in passing before but I never read them so I decided to pick one up. Of course, doing things backwards as I do, I started with the last book in the series, lmao. But the premise of this book interested me the most from the others available so there you have it 😛

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Books: A Batch of Mini-Reviews

Posted 10 April, 2017 by Lianne in Books / 2 Comments

a.k.a the poetry edition! In retrospect I realised I could’ve strung a few of my poetry book reviews in a mini-review post, but anyway…The following are a whole slew of poetry books I read towards the end of 2016 (and just in time for National Poetry Month 😛 ). Included in this batch are:


If There Is Something to Desire
By: Vera Pavlova
Format/Source: Paperback; my purchase

I broke your heart. / Now barefoot I tread / on shards.

Such is the elegant simplicity—a whole poem in ten words, vibrating with image and emotion—of the best-selling Russian poet Vera Pavlova. The one hundred poems in this book, her first full-length volume in English, all have the same salty immediacy, as if spoken by a woman who feels that, as the title poem concludes, “If there was nothing to regret, / there was nothing to desire.”

Pavlova’s economy and directness make her delightfully accessible to us in all of the widely ranging topics she covers here: love, both sexual and the love that reaches beyond sex; motherhood; the memories of childhood that continue to feed us; our lives as passionate souls abroad in the world and the fullness of experience that entails. Expertly translated by her husband, Steven Seymour, Pavlova’s poems are highly disciplined miniatures, exhorting us without hesitation: “Enough painkilling, heal. / Enough cajoling, command.”

It is a great pleasure to discover a new Russian poet—one who storms our hearts with pure talent and a seemingly effortless gift for shaping poems.

I had been eyeing this collection of poems for some time, partly because of the book cover; it’s a great choice of title for the collection as well as poem featured as it is one of my favourites *thumbs up* Anyway, this is her first collection translated into English, which is pretty cool, and I enjoyed this collection from start to finish. Her poems are pretty short in general but the topics her poems cover are quite the range: love, sex, family, memory, motherhood, life. There’s nothing else I can really say about this collection except that I highly recommend it if you’re into poetry and/or are looking to read poems in translation 🙂

Rating: ★★★★★

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