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From Barnes & NobleBarnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers
Olaf Olafsson has perfectly captured a woman's voice in his haunting second novel. Disa, a character eerily reminiscent of the butler in Kazua Ishiguro's The Remains of the Day, is a successful, attentive restaurateur and proprietress at an English country hotel. When she learns she has but a year to live, the news serves as the catalyst for a final trip home to Iceland -- a journey she has postponed for 20 years.
For nearly two decades, Disa's life has revolved around the hotel: "the beginning of summer: bright days, open windows and white sheets flapping on the line." But when she was younger, in the 1930s, she first fled Iceland for England to avoid the "arrogant" glare of her judgmental mother and to pursue her passion for cooking -- a talent that was once an escape but has become a calling. There she meets the love of her life, Jakob, a German Jew whose fate is sealed when he returns home to rescue his parents. Brokenhearted, Disa returns home herself to work as a cook for a wealthy family, remaining estranged from her mother. In a powerfully evocative scene, she watches an injured swan try to lift itself off the water, instead crashing onto the road, mirroring her own efforts to take flight.
Traveling homeward now for the last time, Disa's mind replays the story of her life: her missteps, the causes of her emotional detachment, and the price that love has cost her. For Disa, hope has led only to self-deception, and as she straightforwardly prepares to face death, her rigorous honesty is an inspiration to behold. (Winter 2001 Selection)