Title: The Glass Woman
Author: Caroline Lea
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Penguin UK – Micheal Joseph
Publication Date: February 2019
Summary: from Amazon
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 speak of it.
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 . . .
I am always drawn to books set in Iceland, particularly historical ones, since reading the brilliant Burial Rites by Hannah Kent a few years ago. I think it’s the rich folklore the country has which together with the extreme climate makes for an endlessly fascinating setting. The Glass Woman makes full use of this great setting and instantly transported me to the unforgiving landscape of 17th century Iceland.
I have to say I went into this book fully expecting to like it but it actually surpassed my high expectations. It is just so beautifully written from start to finish. The story follows Rósa, a young woman who moves across Iceland to marry a wealthy man she barely knows. The author slowly builds a real sense of unease and threat through her lyrical prose. There are definite echoes of Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca in the sense that Rósa feels haunted by her new husbands first wife and the atmospheric feel to the book but it in no way feels like it’s been done before. The Glass Woman feels authentic and original. There is so much interesting folklore and tradition weaved into the plot that I found so intriguing. The way these characters live is a million miles from modern times but feels completely relevant because of the way the author has brought the characters fully to life.
One of the biggest strengths of this book is the relationships between the characters. Each and every one is incredibly nuanced and so compelling. Rósa is a fantastic woman to read about. The oppressive patriarchal society woman of her era lived in forces her into a situation she feels she cannot escape. It was fascinating to examine the complexities of what it mean to be female in that time and place and how woman still managed to demonstrate their strength even when they are consistently told they are weak and feeble.
I have to be honest and say that The Glass Woman is not a particularly cheerful story – it is harsh and complicated – but there is also so much beauty and so many layers to it. The ending was perfect in my opinion. It both broke my heart whilst still feeling like the exactly right way to end this story. I highly recommend it.
I received this e-arc from Netgalley. My review is my own honest opinion.
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