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The Tricking of Freyja

I just wanted to give a quick shout-out to Christina Sunley and her book The Tricking of Freya
[Freyjuginning in Icelandic], which I recently finished reading and which I think is perfect for the Icelandophiles in the crowd.

The main protagonist, Freyja, is a young American girl [and later woman] of Icelandic descent, who spends her summers in Gimli, Manitoba, with her grandmother and aunt. The story later moves to Iceland, where Freyja is thrown into some harrowing circumstances. That trip has a major impact on her, and she must eventually revisit the Old Country in order to make sense of them and move on.

I’m being deliberately vague here so as not to give anything away. Let’s just say there’s a dark family secret and some fairly surprising twists involved, twists that completely managed to catch me off guard [which I don’t have to tell you is a Good Thing]. And in addition to the plot and action,  I found the portrayal of  Western Icelanders and their relationship with the Old Country très interesting. They totally resonated with me [unsurprisingly, since they’re very much a part of my background] and what’s more, I found them completely realistic and believable — this sense of alienation from the Old Country, the watered-down traditions that somehow became distorted and disfigured in the New World, and yet this unspeakable longing for something that can only be found there. Also this absence of purpose and sense of drifting that comes from being in that space, and the necessity of returning to one’s roots and coming to terms with one’s own truth in order to be whole.

I read the book in translation — i.e. the Icelandic version — and I’m happy to say that it was very good. Being a translator myself I tend to be critical and so it is always a delight to find a translation that can totally hold its own. So big shout-out to Þórdís Bachmann for a job well done.

Finally, Christina will be in Reykjavík next week and will give two readings from The Tricking of Freyja. On Monday, May 31 at 16.30 she will be at the Culture House in Reykjavík, where she’ll read from the book, talk about her relationship to Iceland and answer questions. On Tuesday, June 1 she’ll be at Reykjavíkur Akademían [the Reykjavík Academy] on Hringbraut 121, 4th floor, at 16.00 where she’ll read from the book and be part of a panel discussion on Icelanders’ emigration to the West, both past and present. Both will be very interesting, I’m sure.

* That’s an affiliate link, just so you know. Which doesn’t mean I don’t mean every word I write in this post.

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  • The Fred from the forums May 26, 2010, 7:46 pm

    I keenly wanted to hear an Icelandic perspective on the book when I read it, so your review and Eygló’s were much appreciated.

  • Robert Hill May 26, 2010, 11:18 pm

    Firstly, Thank You for your effort in writing “Living Inside The Meltdown”, and providing these insights into the effect the malodorous kreppa has on everyday people.
    So, readers, before you read “Blue Fox”, or “Freya”…..
    My amazon 5/12 delivery of “The Tricking of Freya” sits unread (read “The Blue Fox” right away, magic!) but was on my short list, and now your new mention has moved it up to my next read. Discovering kindred book readers is always a delight. The sample pages for “Freya” provided on amazon captured me, give them a look, then I defy you to resist!
    Rob-USA

  • sigga May 27, 2010, 12:48 am

    Thanks for the heads up Alda, will try and find a copy of this for myself and also let my nephews and nieces in Aus know about it. I am sure they too will be able to see bits of themselves in this. It’s funny how much of a hold this place has on “us” displaced persons.

  • Dale Olafson May 27, 2010, 7:19 am

    Your description of Freya’s longing to travel to her Icelandic roots sounds like the midlife crisis that I’m going through. I just bought this book and gave it to my daughter to read first so I’m anxiously waiting for her to read it so that I can follow suit. I hope Christina has a successful trip while in Iceland. I was just exploring (via the internet) the Kerlingafjollum area and I agree with Icelanders that it is much to beautiful to be recklessly pillaged by exploration companies from any nation, especially ours!

  • Joerg May 27, 2010, 10:54 am

    I won’t be able to judge the quality of the Icelandic translation but my order of the original English version is on the way.

    This book is also available in German translation.

  • Jon May 27, 2010, 6:36 pm

    Thanks for the book recommendation, Alda. Dale, I think there are enough of us to form a support group. Maybe we should.

  • kevin oconnor,waterford ireland May 28, 2010, 5:18 am

    Don’t know how to comment on this one Alda,probably a nice book and a change from our race hate fueled diatribes against the ruling oligarchs of the world ie people that have more than €3000 in their bank accounts, but makes a change for a while, look forward to recommencing trench warfare against the gang of 30. I mean otherwise this blog would be reduced to giving dewpoints of various suburbs of Reykjavik along with associated wind speeds and other such matters of a riveting nature, I hope you enjoyed your trip to Brussels to consort with the great satan ie the EU according to your IP party, maybe them guys have had just a bit too much independence over the last few years hence all the financial difficulties, but you can forget about Gordon as now no one over there is bothered about a miserable £5 billion as they are too busy with what to do about the £160 billion ha ha.

  • PeterRRRRRR May 28, 2010, 12:55 pm

    Thanks for the review, will give it a read. Curious – how many English books get translated into Icelandic? I can see the appeal of this particular title, but, for example, how many current NYTimes or Amazon.com bestsellers get translated? While I’ve read that Icelanders are really big book-buyers and readers, still, kind of a small market.

  • Karen Olafson May 29, 2010, 2:52 am

    Thank you for the wonderful review of “THE TRICKING OF FREYA”. I am a western Icelander who has been to Iceland twice. I loved this book for the reasons you outlined in your review. It helped explain the attitude of my mother -in-law who was full Icelandic– if you were an Icelander you must be family,even if you weren’t. It helped me gain a greater understanding of Iceland today. I don’t want to give anything away but I know personally 2 people in my family who experienced the same life experience as Freya. A wonderful story that I will be re- reading again

  • Sigvaldi Eggertsson May 29, 2010, 11:11 am

    PeterRRRRRR, somewhere between 200 and 300 translations from English have been published per year in Iceland during the last decade (according to http://www.statice.is) and many of them are translations of current bestsellers.

  • PeterRRRRRR May 30, 2010, 9:08 pm

    Sigvaldi Eggertsson, Thanks for the numbers. Wow, 200 to 300 translations per year, for a population the size of Iceland, that’s really amazing.

  • Laura May 15, 2011, 4:58 am

    I just finished this and LOVED it!