This is my first read for Annabookbel’s NordicFINDS challenge, which loosely involves reading as many books from the Nordic countries as possible. She has particular weeks for particular countries, but you’re also handily allowed to just freestyle.

Being the Icelandophile that I am, I knew I could cover this challenge nicely from my TBR, and I’m also pleased to be able to pick off the very oldest, lingering books on the TBR for it – that great big sagas book, which I bought in 2014 between our wedding and our honeymoon in Iceland (I have so far read the great big introduction), and Jon Kalman Stefansson’s “Heaven and Hell” trilogy (which needs a space in the upstairs reading schedule as it’s going to be a not over dinner one, I’m fairly sure) which dates from 2015-2016! I started Christine Ritter’s “A Woman in the Polar Night” first but finished this before that, so off we go around Iceland …

I bought this book with my 2021 birthday book tokens and it arrived in July that year – there’s a picture of that set of books here, along with a frankly upsetting picture of my TBR at that stage, just one and a half shelves of vertically arranged books and a pile! I’ve actually read 4.5 of the 9 books bought then, which gives the lie to my claim to reading my TBR in acquisition date order! Oh well!

A. Kendra Greene – “The Museum of Whales you Will Never See: Travels Among the Collectors of Iceland”

(01 July 2021 – book tokens from my birthday)

I have come for the perimeter of territory staked out under the name ‘museum.’ Because for all the museums I have worked for or volunteered at or interned with, for all the continents where I have been the museum visitor, I have never known a place where the boundaries between private collection and public museum are so profoundly permeable, so permissive, so easily transgressed and so transparent as if almost not to exist. (pp. 2-3)

This is a lyrical, whimsical chase around some interesting museums and collections, musing as it goes on what is a museum and what is a collection and really collecting the interesting people that started them. Long chapters on individual museums (Galleries) are interspersed with Cabinets, short pieces on other museums and collectors which are more vague and wispy but equally interesting. The big museums include a rather touching piece on the Phallological Museum in Reykjavik (I haven’t been) and the Herring Era Museum, and it’s nice that the book covers the whole country, from the Westfjords to the eastern shores, as well as Reykjavik and its surroundings.

Although the list of museums visited on the author’s long trip include several I’ve visited myself, I was a bit personally disappointed that she doesn’t talk about any of those. I have, however, also failed to go to (both) the museums of whales – the ones she doesn’t see in the title (it’s the museums, not the whales, I think). So there’s that. The author is a museum specialist and an artist and there are charming line-drawings throughout the text, although I couldn’t work out if they were by her or another artist.

There are “Points of Reference” at the front of the book, including notes on seasons, weights and spellings, and a list of museums and their addresses at the back. I liked most the author’s love of Iceland, the way when she goes to a new town, she likes to find the first street the town had (named for the harbour or sea) and the second (Main Street or some such). She accepts the Icelanders she meets as they are, without making them silly or exotic or naive. There is a lot to like about this rather strange little book.

This was my first NordicFINDS read and covered Iceland.

This was TBR Challenge 2021-22 Quarter 2 (I had to re-count and start again!) Book 1/53 – 52 to go.