When pirates raid the Icelandic coast in 1627, 400 people are taken and sold into slavery in Algiers. Among their number are a pastor and his family, and it is through the experiences of Asta, the pastor's wife, that this dramatic event of dislocation and forced assimilation is brought to vivid life. Separated from her husband, and then her children, Asta survives her plight by consoling and cajoling those around her with the sagas and folk tales from home while being exposed to the storytelling traditions of her captors.
Compelling and memorable, this fascinating reimagining of a real event in Icelandic history, reflects impeccable research and attests to the power of storytelling in all its guises.
Very interesting. Half of us loved it, while the other half found the middle section slow.
Most loved the book. The contrast of the dark, grey, frozen feel of Iceland was in stark comparison to the bright, sunny feel of Algiers. We loved the stories and myths. We all felt we learnt a lot about slavery, not realising it was so wide spread.
Difficult to get into, but worth the effort. One of our better discussions.
A really good historical novel. A period of history that none of us knew about. What heartrending conflicts Asta faced. A powerful tale of loss and endurance. Beautifully written.
All members of our group found the book to be fascinating and informative, as none of us knew about Icelanders being taken as slaves. The fact that many of the characters and events were real and could be researched through diaries and journals made the book a lesson in history. One person found it difficult to get into the story but we all agreed it became very interesting. Good discussion about whether one can (or should) go home again.
Although not all members read or completed this book, we had a lively discussion and those of us who read the story agreed that it was worth finishing. Most of us felt that it was a slow start and we struggled initially, but once we became absorbed in the characters we enjoyed it and also learnt much about life in very different times and societies.
Overall the group was really positive about the book, enjoying the story and also the historical background. Discussion ranged over the concept of religious differences especially the concept of the afterlife, the role of sagas in both Iceland and Algiers, and the decision that Asta made to return to Iceland from Algiers, which seemed a much more 'comfortable' lifestyle.
We all enjoyed this book - beautiful descriptive writing, and fascinating parallels between the monochromatic Iceland and the colour and bustle of Algiers. Also no-one was aware that slaves were captured in Iceland.
Everyone in our group enjoyed this book immensely. Most of us knew little about this fascinating period of history. Extremely well written, great storytelling and character portrayal. Loved that it was the woman's story. Generated lots of discussion about slavery, piracy,religious beliefs and that this still happens today.
We all enjoyed this book, we had a good discussion about slavery in the modern world, relationships and the differences of dark and light. We would recommend this book to others. The style of a legend and telling legends was also enjoyed.
We all thought that the book was very well constructed. Flowed beautifully.
A good storyteller bringing alive history that the group wasn't aware of. We had a great discussion about characters and their response to events. Good notes which helped the discussion.
We loved this book. Mostly we had feared that the book would be rather dull and grim, but then discovered how well Sally Magnusson writes. 17th century Iceland came to seem very real as did Algiers. The lives of people of the past were movingly portrayed, especially from a woman's point of view. A great read.
What a great way to start the year! We all loved the writing in this book. The language, the character development and the storytelling were great. Also a topic and place we knew little about.
Interesting history lesson and absorbing storytelling by the author, but quite depressing!!
One of our members has lived in Iceland, and married an Icelander. She had lots to say about the book and the stories that are told in Iceland, with photos. A piece of history that none of us knew of, with a huge decision as a pivot in the book. Fascinating.
We all loved this book:-)
Everyone really enjoyed this book and most had never heard of white slavery before. The author describes the environment very clearly and we spent some time discussing the privations of the Icelandic community. Of course the topic of slavery is still relevant today so good discussions around this. Highly recommended.
Some of our group loved this book, others not. Loved the research, history, descriptions, emotions, and cultures. Well-written. Some thought it a bit gruesome in places.
No meeting, but most of us really enjoyed the book. Very well-written.
Due to the lockdown we were not able to meet in person, but had a Zoom meeting online. This was most successful and we were able to share our thoughts about the book. Most enjoyed it but found that it was hard to get involved in the storyline at the beginning. The history of the period in the 1600s including slavery was new to some, and hence rewarding in terms of the many issues it brought up in discussion. We were pleased to have read the book.
We learned so much about a part of history we knew nothing about previously. Every group member enjoyed this. All the family explanations in the back were helpful/useful.