Thursday, January 27, 2022
Wednesday, January 26, 2022
Monday, January 24, 2022
We meet the title character when she is about 10 years old. She and her mother, Sigurlina, are getting off a boat in a small Icelandic fishing village. They were going from the north to Rekjavik, but when the money ran out, their journey ended. This small village revolved around fish, which is owned by a wealthy man who also owns the shop. Fish processors are not given wages, but credit at the shop, which ensures they will always be poor and in debt. The villagers are not used to outsiders and are not inclined to help them out. Sigurlina ends up at the Salvation Army, which provides her with a community, but makes her more of an outsider. Meanwhile, Salka is brutally bullied and develops a thick skin. They are taken in by an elderly couple who need help on their farm after their son brings them there, but he is an alcoholic who can be violent and has a disturbing attraction to Salka. At the end of the first section (originally the first book), Salka is 14.
When section two opens, Salka is grown. She owns a share in a fishing boat and has organised a fisherman’s union. This leads to unintended consequences and more poverty for the processors. The atmosphere is perfect for the Marxists who come to the village with big (unrealistic) plans, one of whom is a former resident and friend of Salka’s—he taught her to read when she’d first arrived. By now the Salvation Army no longer has a presence in the village and the conflicts become more political. The author does a good job of showing how, for some people, political ideas become a sort of religion and how in both areas, the conflict between ideals and reality can be difficult, both in public and private life.
I could relate to much of what was going on in this book, having moved to a small, rural, not-well-off area in New Hampshire when I was 14 and being a bullied outsider. There were class issues there, too--they called me the 'rich bitch on the hill.' I’ve also had a lot of people in my life who were very zealous in their religious and/or political views. He describes these things well. There are footnotes explaining some of the more obscure Icelandic poetry and folklore,as well as the religious texts.
This is not a cheerful read, but it was a really good book and I am glad I read it.