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    An entrancing portrait of ancient Iceland

    When Rosa, an educated priest’s daughter living in a small town with an ailing mother is proposed to by a rich Bóndi she says yes to help her family and her community survive the harsh winter. But how exactly did his first wife die and why does his home hide so many secrets? In The Glass Woman Caroline Lea paints a beautiful picture of 1600s Iceland in both its culture and its people. I was actually surprised to read in the authors note at the end that she is not actually from Iceland and has only visited the country once! The book is meticulously researched, with Icelandic words, phrases and folklore woven seamlessly throughout the narrative. It is also filled in nicely with atmospheric descriptions and interesting characters that really give you a feel of being there. I only wish the glossary of Icelandic words was more easily accessible on the Kindle version although you could guess most of them as you went along. The setting is a good choice, as is the time it is set in – with old Gods and folklore being replaced by the Bible and the accusations of witchcraft flying around the community. The country is vast and nature is wild and unpredictable, but the villages and communities are small which creates a balance of claustrophobia and intense loneliness all in one. The plot is interesting and I liked how it jumped perspective between Jon and Rosa in places as well. As characters they felt well-rounded and interesting. I liked the progression of the plot, I loved the imagery of the Glass Woman trinket and the ending was nice – leaving a standalone story that stays with you after you finish it. I did however, feel the book dragged a little in places - it felt repetitive and this wasn’t helped by similar phrases being used over and over again. For example; many objects are pressed into Rosa’s hand so hard that they imprint on her palm, often she falls over and damages her wrist, feels a surge of tenderness to someone or imagines her fate is tied to an object. I also felt the timeline dates at the top of chapters were a little confusing – particularly the early Jon chapters which although were dated a month after the main timeline were actually flashbacks into Jon’s past. Overall The Glass Woman is a beautifully written story which paints a well-researched and entrancing portrait of ancient Iceland - it just felt a little repetitive in places. Thank you to NetGalley & Penguin UK – Michael Joseph for a chance to read the ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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