I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to Penguin UK – Michael Joseph for sending me a copy!
Title: The Glass Woman
Author: Caroline Lea
Publisher: Penguin UK – Michael Joseph
Publication Date: 25th March 2019
1686, Iceland. An isolated, windswept land haunted by witch trials and steeped in the ancient sagas.
Betrothed unexpectedly to Jón Eiríksson, Rósa is sent to join her new husband in the remote village of Stykkishólmur. Here, the villagers are wary of outsiders.
But Rósa harbours her own suspicions. Her husband buried his first wife alone in the dead of night. He will not talk of it. Instead he gives her a small glass figurine. She does not know what it signifies.
The villagers mistrust them both. Dark threats are whispered. There is an evil here – Rósa can feel it. Is it her husband, the villagers – or the land itself?
Alone and far from home, Rósa sees the darkness coming. She fears she will be its next victim . . .
While I was intrigued by the description of this novel and I loved the cover – I didn’t know what to expect as I hadn’t read a book set in Iceland before and 17th century Iceland at that but The Glass Woman was such an enjoyable read and utterly unputdownable!
Here’s a little rundown of the plot:
The story begins with Rosa, a young woman who lives with her sick mother and hoping that they’ll both survive the harsh winter to come. Rosa and her mother are struggling financially after the death of Rosas father, who had status and resources as a priest. Thus when wealthy farmer Jon Eriksson visits town for business, Rosa agrees to marry him.
As she makes the move to the remote village of Stykkisholmur and leaves behind everything she holds dear, including her childhood sweetheart Pall, Rosa becomes increasingly unsettled and filled with a sense of foreboding about her decision. Jon lives a solitary life, his only companion his farm hand Petur, who is equally shrouded in mystery. There are whispers from the townsfolk about his first wifes sudden death, witchcraft and madness. Jon is increasingly secretive about her and then she starts hearing noises from the loft…
I‘m going to break down exactly why I enjoyed this novel so much:
- Mystery – I always enjoy a good thriller or mystery and in this novel Caroline Lea delivered on all fronts. From the budding tension between Rosa and Jon to discovering what really happened to Anna – Jons first wife – as well as figuring out the other characters motives, there was never a dull moment.
- Similarities to other stories I enjoyed – I can definitely see that there were some commonalities between this novel and to Jane Eyre, The Miniaturist and Wuthering Heights. Personally this wasn’t a problem for me as I enjoyed all three of these texts and I enjoyed a new addition to this mystery, gothic genre.
- Folklore + Culture – I’m not familiar with the culture or folklore in Iceland but this was a welcome introduction. I’m always down for stories involving witchcraft – I find it so interesting how superstition can have such an effect on people. I had no idea runes and the sagas were a feature either. The sagas are a series of narratives which follow Icelandic fables and cover issues like love, hate and politics to name a few.
- Female Characters – I appreciated that there were a range of complex female characters, including the main character: Rosa. I also liked that she didn’t have to wield a sword or be some dynamic warrior woman to be considered strong and capable. She is vulnerable and compassionate too which is also important.
- Use of Icelandic – I liked that there were Icelandic phrases and keywords interspersed throughout the story, which made it feel more authentic and that there were a glossary of words at the end with the meanings. I love languages and learning new ones, in however small a way is always fun for me.
- Setting – I loved how the setting was so central to the story and how the wild and unpredictable weather also made the story so atmospheric. Coming from a city (London) where the wildest weather we get is a downpour of rain or a light snow, I was even more interested in just how huge a part the landscape plays in peoples everyday lives. In Iceland, especially in the 17th century, it made a huge difference between life and death.
★★★★ – 4 Star Rating
Overall, I really enjoyed reading The Glass Woman and will definitely be on the lookout for whatever Caroline Lea writes next.
Have you ever read a book set in Iceland? Or have you visited Iceland before? Would love to chat in the comments!
Until next time,