Translated from the Icelandic by Oliver Watts, 2011
Ms. Hen has been binge-reading novels from Iceland in order to be thoroughly prepared for her upcoming vacation. She read on a website that this novel, GUNNLOTH’S TALE, is considered one of the best novels from Iceland. Ms. Hen does not agree.
Yes, Ms. Hen wanted to love this novel. In the description, she learned that it’s about a woman whose daughter commits a crime, and it involves Nordic mythology. It should have been wonderful, right? Well, Ms. Hen thought otherwise.
This book was difficult to read for many reasons. The writing style is very strange, and Ms. Hen is not sure if it has to do with the translation. It’s a first person narrative, which Ms. Hen usually revels in, but the narrative is odd. The book is infested with sentence fragments. Ms. Hen thought this was distracting. She understands that it’s a writer’s style choice, but so many sentence fragments all in a row! It disturbed Ms. Hen. She didn’t like so many incomplete thoughts all at once. Ms. Hen knows that the author might have been trying to write like a person thinks, but she thinks it makes the writing choppy and static and annoying.
One other reason that Ms. Hen did not like reading this was that the parts about the Nordic Gods were boring to her, and made her eyes glaze over. She believes that a lot of people are interested in reading this kind of writing, and she has nothing against it, but she was more interested in the story of the mother and the daughter in jail than the priestesses making mead and having the art of poetic invention stolen from her.
What Ms. Hen didn’t understand was why the mother becomes part of the daughter’s fantasy. The mother is more devastated at the thought that her daughter could be mentally ill instead of a criminal. She is more ashamed that her daughter could be crazy. Ms. Hen thinks that is preposterous! There’s nothing a person can do about being crazy, but there is if a person is a criminal. With criminals, it’s usually that person’s own fault. Most of the time being insane is just bad luck.
Ms. Hen will tell you the end, so you don’t have to suffer through reading this novel. At the conclusion, the daughter is sent to a psychiatric hospital because she smashed the glass at a Copenhagen museum and stole a classic antique beaker. The lawyers decide she is psychotic. But, the mother steals the beaker from the courthouse. The mother ends up being arrested and is sent to jail. So who is crazy? Is it real, or are they both crazy?
The novel professes they are both so enthralled by the beaker that when they see it, it gives the two women an unquenchable thirst they believe only the beaker can satisfy. But Ms. Hen thinks they were crazy. She didn’t believe the fantasy.
Ms. Hen does not recommend this novel. She realized that not all Icelandic novels can be wonderful, but that doesn’t mean she isn’t any less excited about her trip to Iceland on April Fools Day. She is happy that Svava Jakobsdottir is no longer on this earth, in the slim chance case she would read this review and get upset L