Independent People by Halldor Laxness ****
Whilst in Iceland in February, I was lucky enough to pass the homestead where Laxness spent much of his writing life. As a consequence, every single piece of work which I read of his feels even more vivid to me; it is as though, by seeing all that surrounded him, his already marvellously personified settings spring to life all the more before my eyes.
The beginning couple of chapters of Independent People were a little confusing in relation to the whole, but they certainly set the scene well. The writing and translation are fluid, and the whole has been so well handled. There wasn’t a single sentence rendered here which felt clumsy or underdone, and some of the prose is breathtaking.
Laxness has written with such depth; alongside the characters, one learns about Icelandic politics and history. As with every one of his books, the novel has its sadnesses, but it is all the more realistic for them. There are stories within stories within stories here. Whilst I found parts rather difficult to read due to their subject matter and my squeamishness, Independent People is basically a masterpiece.
O Caledonia by Elspeth Barker ****
I had incredibly high hopes for O Caledonia, and hoped it wouldn’t disappoint. It did not; in fact, it is certainly one of the best coming of age stories which I have read in quite a while. Startling, vivid, intriguing, and marvellously Gothic. Troubled Janet was a fabulously crafted character, and I was so entranced as soon as I began to read her story. I loved Barker’s prose style, and the delicious darkness to the whole. O Caledonia is a mesmerising and incredibly well crafted novel, with a marvellous and surprising conclusion.