Aug 2016 TBRTwo more books that weren’t in the 20 Books of Summer or any other challenges. I basically needed some easy reads a) before and around my big run in Iceland and b) when I got home, so these fitted the bill perfectly, and while it’s nice to read a gentle book about people in the middle of America when you’re nervous or tired, it’s even better to read a book set in Reykjavik when you’re actually there!

Sherri Schaeffer – “To Everything a Season”

(August 2016, ebook)

I spotted this book in a free ebooks email I get every day – I’ve never seen anything I fancied in there and then this one appealed – I do like a book about the Amish, for some slightly inexplicable reason.

Businesswoman Taylor, whose work is her life, comes across an Old Order Amish family in difficult circumstances and becomes deeply involved with them for reasons she and they (and her father) find difficult to fathom. Oldest brother, David, seems settled but Jacob and Becca are on their Rumspringa, the time all young Amish people have when they can run a bit wild and flirt with modern technology and habits in order to really know whether they want to stick with their community. Jacob is rebellious and craves more, particularly knowledge, while Becca is unsure how to navigate the outside world, but is keen to explore and learn.

Taylor’s attempts to help and explain are met with some resistance and she makes some bad mistakes, but she comes to feel she’s gained more than the Yoders have, while Jacob and Becca, while making their own decisions based on their loyalty to their family and community, do also use the resources she’s given to them.

A good book with nicely done and rounded characters; the only thing I’d pick up on is that the author feels she has to cram in every single bit of research she’s done, which is a common issue, but does make some of the book quite slow. The Amish stuff is really interesting, but there’s a lot more comparative religion, art history, etc. which wasn’t so much so. But a good easy read with no silly romances shoehorned in.

Arnaldur Indriðason – “Arctic Chill”

(August 2015)

It’s the cold Icelandic winter when a young Thai boy is found dead. Exploring the immigrant experience in Iceland in an interesting and sensitive way, this novel breaks the mould of the previous books in the series by concentrating pretty much only on the present day, with the only older material being related to flashbacks to Erlendur’s childhood and the loss of his brother and an incident in Sigurdur Oli’s schooldays which explains a lot of his character.

The usual laconic Icelandic style and the focus on the investigation and relationships rather than yuckiness, alongside the two good intertwined plots and social observation, added to the elements of the detectives’ own lives, makes for a satisfying read.

I was sad to see that it was translated by the usual Bernard Scudder and Victoria Cribb, and the dedication was to the memory of Bernard Scudder. I couldn’t see the join in the translation, but this did make me sad, as he was an excellent translator of these great stories.

I finished the Indriðason at home and have now got stuck into “Recollections of Virginia Woolf”, which I only bought a short while ago but needs to fit into #Woolfalong before the month is up. I’ve also started the rather odd “The Greenlanders” by Jane Smiley, which is so exactly like an Icelandic saga that it makes me wonder if I shouldn’t just read an actual Icelandic saga instead …