By Alda Sigmundsdóttir
Enska Textasmiðjan, 2013
Another book written by a blog-pal! This time it is a full-fledged novel by Alda Sigmundsdóttir whose blog, The Iceland Weather Report, was certainly the most accomplished Icelandic blog published in English. It reached its peak in influence during the Icelandic banking crisis of 2008. Alda found herself thrust upon the world stage, giving interviews and commentary to a wide variety of international media. I've followed her since 2004 and have referenced her work in numerous FITK posts. Alda has written three other books, all of which were well-received, I've read all of them except Icelandic Folk Legends, and some of those stories I've read on her blog.
That said, it was with not without some trepidation that I picked up this book. As I got into it, I soon discovered what I had suspected—it wasn't the type of book I would usually read. It is a dysfunctional relationship novel played out over the background of the Icelandic financial meltdown. At times it could even be considered a “bodice-ripper.” The main character, Frida, is a free-spirited young Icelandic woman who ends up in a loveless marriage with the UK's ambassador to Iceland (who is also hiding a couple of big secrets). Things are further complicated when Frida takes an interest in hunky Baldur, a former investment banker who she meets in the remote Westfjords.
Alda’s writing is clear and direct; her descriptions of Iceland and Reykjavík give this book some depth and shows how the people of Iceland were affected during the crisis of 2008. A good companion to this novel is her first book, Living Inside the Meltdown, as well as her exceptional blog posts of 2008-2009. In contrast, the main character, Frida, is somewhat shallow and her lovers are (except for the sex scenes) lightly drawn.
The book did hold my interest although Maria Alva Roff's 88 was more to my tastes—a wild ride covering some of the same territory but with a vastly different approach. Auður Ösp's earlier blogs (non-fiction), while not polished, gave an even more intimate look at modern Iceland. Each of these writers/bloggers captures facets of Icelandic life in their own way. It must be working as I've remained a fan for ten years!