In March 1920 Icelandic days are short and cold, but the nights are long. For most, on those nights, funny, sad, and dramatic stories are told around the fire. But there is nothing dramatic about Gunnar, a hermit blacksmith who barely manages to make ends meet. He knows nobody will remember his existence – they already don’t. All he wants is peace, the company of his animals, and a steady supply of his medication. Sometimes he wonders what it would feel like to have a story of his own. He’s about to find out.
Sigurd – a man with a plan, a broken ankle, and shocking amounts of money – won’t talk about himself, but is happy to tell a story that just might get Gunnar killed. The blacksmith's other “friends” are just as eager to write him into stories of their own – from Brynhildur who wants to fix Gunnar, then marry him, his doctor who is on the precipice of calling for an intervention, The Conservative Women of Iceland who want to rehabilitate Gunnar’s “heathen ways” – even the goddamn elf has plans for the blacksmith.
As his defenses begin to crumble, Gunnar decides that perhaps his life is due for a change – on his own terms. But can he avoid the endings others have in mind for him, and forge his own?
The author is an ex-blacksmith, lover of all things Icelandic, physically located in Amsterdam, mentally living in a log cabin near Akureyri. He has published stories and essays in Polish and American magazines, both online and in print. This is his first novel.
It just zipped by and was AMAZING!!!! Like, I NEVER saw it coming and it was so good and thrilling and edge of your seat! – Penni Ellington
I’d read a bathroom wall if it was written by this guy. – Jenna Dahmianna Nightwind
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Gunnar is a drunken, depressed blacksmith in 1920’s Iceland. Then one night a man comes to his house with a broken ankle, Sigurd. Gunnar reluctantly lets him stay. Sigurd doesn’t really say much about himself but every night when Gunnar comes home Sigurd weaves this captivating tale that has Gunner hurrying home. Out in the village of Klettafjordur, Gunnar’s neighbors have their own secrets and plans for him. Brynhildur wants to marry him but this is more than simple infatuation. Then there is the Conservative Women of Iceland that want to stop his heathen ways. This was an interesting story. Although Gunner is a grumpy old jerk the more you are around him you kind of understand why. This is a brutally honest look at depression with everything Gunner feels and I hoped that he would find that one thing that would help him. Sigurd is suspicious from the beginning but I think that is just me, I always think there is something going on with the strangers. I loved the ending with how everything came together yet left you wondering about other things. This is a great read and first book from author Bjorn Larssen. I love all the details that went into this story. It’s definitely worth checking out. I can’t wait to see where Bjorn Larssen goes with his next book. I received a complimentary copy of this book. I voluntarily chose to read and post an honest review.
The novel tells the tale of Gunner, a misanthropic blacksmith living in Iceland in 1920. He finds an injured old man, Sigurd, and brings him into his hut. Gunner is an alcoholic and a loner but allows Sigurd to stay with him. To distract Gunner from his true goals, Sigurd begins to tell him a story. The side story is set four decades earlier, following young Arnar and his American bride Juana as they settle in Iceland. The two plots that eventually come together. The first narrative is an omniscient third-person focused mainly on Gunner but also dipping into the thoughts of Sigurd, the town doctor, and Brynhildur (who is interested in Gunnar romantically). The “past” sections are told by Sigurd presumably, but still in omniscient third-person focusing on Arnar, Juana, Arnar’s brother Bjarni, and a few others. Unfortunately, there is a major shift in one of the character’s personalities that occurs without any build up. While the unreliability of the narration is revealed to be purposeful, it leaves you feeling as if you’ve missed some events or personality developments. Likewise, while there aren’t that many supporting characters, they are only given minimal description, so I found I was often confusing them. Especially later in the story, when characters reappear, I was left feeling as if I had missed something subtle because I was trying to remember who the person was. That being said, it is a very enjoyable read. The jumps between the present and the past help keep the story moving. Both narratives share themes of isolation and entrapment. Gunnar’s alcoholism and depression are artfully crafted in a way that generates sympathy. You are forced to watch him spiral again and again, but you hope he will make the right choice next time. There are moments of comedy in the story as well, which helps lighten the sombre mood. It’s clear there was a great deal of research done on customs, blacksmiths, and the social climate of both time periods. It is an enchanting and compelling read about trying to hide from the world while still wishing to be part of it.