Published by Josephtailor on 28 March 2019
In March 1920 Icelandic days are short and cold, but the nights are long. For most, on those nights, funny, sad, and dramatic stories are told around the fire. But there is nothing dramatic about Gunnar, a hermit blacksmith who barely manages to make ends meet. He knows nobody will remember his existence – they already don’t. All he wants is peace, the company of his animals, and a steady supply of his medication. Sometimes he wonders what it would feel like to have a story of his own. He’s about to find out.
Sigurd – a man with a plan, a broken ankle, and shocking amounts of money – won’t talk about himself, but is happy to tell a story that just might get Gunnar killed. The blacksmith's other “friends” are just as eager to write him into stories of their own – from Brynhildur who wants to fix Gunnar, then marry him, his doctor who is on the precipice of calling for an intervention, The Conservative Women of Iceland who want to rehabilitate Gunnar’s “heathen ways” – even that wicked elf has plans for the blacksmith.
As his defenses begin to crumble, Gunnar decides that perhaps his life is due for a change – on his own terms. But can he avoid the endings others have in mind for him, and forge his own?
I have to start and just get this out of the way. I will be honest, I was intrigued when I read the blurb and I loved the cover but this was nearly a DNF for me. I got confused with the jumping around and not always knowing whose voice it was as it changed from one paragraph to the next. One minute, we were with Sigurd and the next I knew we were with Gunnar. This happened a few times and I struggled, but what kept me going was the story.
I loved the story. The story of Gunnar, his lonesome ways, the stranger Sigurd and how it was reflected against the “Then” story of Arner and his brothers and Juana. There was enough mystery and intrigue to keep me reading. At first, I wasn’t interested in Gunnar and Sigurd because I was hooked on the story of Juana and Arner, their travel from America to a village in Iceland. I wanted to know what was going to happen next and how they were going to cope. Juana suffers from a similar isolation to Gunnar, she can’t speak the language and basically shunned. My heart went out to her.
Then something happened and I wanted to know about Gunnar. I was slowly drawn into his plight, his alcoholism and his care for Sigurd, this stranger. I didn’t care for Brynhildur, she was a dominating woman who really didn’t know as much as she thought. I really did have a soft spot for the man who just wanted to be left alone. He knew what he wanted in life and he was happy with his means to a degree, part punishment and part habit.
I loved that Bjørn did not shy away from Gunnar and his struggles but embraced them. They were part of him and we saw the cold hard reality of it all. My dad was an alcoholic and it felt there were so many parallels in Gunnar, that I completely respected the author and his work. Nothing was glamorised, the steady decline, the delusions, it was something I witnessed first hand.
I have to say there is magic to this story. The story of heartbreak, deception, secrets and loneliness hits all the right spots. There is enough to keep you turning the page and not stop reading. It is the then and now that does it for me. You just get to the “juicy” bit of either story and you are taken away from it and dropped into a different period. Definitely, a winning formula to keep the reader hooked. Especially when the story begins to overlap. Now, this was just delicious to see happen and I was forever trying to figure it all out.
This is a slower-paced book until the climatic shocks. It’s a book to be savoured, not one you can speed read as you take in the sights around you. Even though I was at one point thinking it would be a DNF, there is no way I would have done it, there was something that got under my skin. I spent many days reading it, in the hope of discovering secrets. And boy did I. I am glad I persevered and read this as I would have missed out for sure.
Until next time xxx
Thank you so much to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for the tour invite and the author for a copy of this book in return for my honest and unbiased review
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
- 2022 Reading
- Published before 2022