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The Little Book of the Icelanders in the Old Days Kindle Edition
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Please note this review does not speak to the content of the book, but rather to the binding of the book. Although the title of the book is "The Little Book of the Icelanders", the book we received was even smaller than I believe the author intended. Specifically, the book is to contain 142 total printed pages, but the version we received jumped from page 26 (beginning of Chapter 6) to page 119 (beginning of Chapter 44), skipping all the pages in between. As we are missing approximately 65% of the actual book content, I leaving a 1* review and will be following up with Amazon.
Incidentally, my daughter (who is going to Iceland) loved the first 26 pages, and I am sure I will leave a more positive review once we get the whole book (assuming that occurs).
Just to reassure you (if you choose to read my review):
(1)I only offer a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️compliment if exceptional.
(2) I read. I love reading—consistent with one of the advantages of my Canadian-Icelandic Heritage that I was blessed to have been encouraged from early childhood.
(2) I have been researching about all aspects of Iceland’s history, literature including the Sagas, poetry and prose as well as a number of excellent books from the scholarly contributions—among my personal favorites:
“Song of the Vikings” by Nancy Marie Brown; Iceland Folktales and Legends by Jacqueline Simpson; any book by Magnús Magnússon including “Iceland Saga”; “Wasteland with Words” by Sigurður Gylfi Magnússon; “The Bard of Iceland: Jónas Hallgrímsson. Poet and Scientist” by Dick Ringler Saga (with a personal connection to Jónas thru my Afi—Sumarliði Gudmunður Sigurðurson—á “niðursetningar”, the poorest of the poor, lowest of the low, most pitiful among the 20% of children “fostered out” and “auctioned down” to the lowest bidder or the farm or family who would accept the least amount of money for the child’s care from the local authorities with all children born in the 19th century on farms were expected to work beginning around age 5. In my Afi’s (grandfather’s case)—24/7 Shepard Boy in Noth Iceland. In contrast to the well deserved popularity and fervered zeal of all things Viking these days—growing up, my Afi, like many first generation immigrants to Canada at the turn of the 20th century, did not like to talk about the “Old Country.” When pressed, he would simply say that, “I was the boy nobody loved,” but adding on as positive note, “We are descended from kings!” (isn’t everybody? thru multiple connections Danir Mikillati 180AD/Harald “Fairhair/Ragnar “Loðbok/Hairy Pants” Sigurðsson); and to “Iceland’s most famous poet!” (our ignorant grandchild impression was limited to thinking, “Whatever you say Afi—but isn’t everyone in Iceland a poet? May I have another slice of vinetarta? I’ll pass on the fish balls, thank you.”😊; and late in life learning that Jónas Hallgrímsson’s sister was in my grandfather’s great(x)grandmother—and my rather “better late than never”’realization that for a (literally) dirt poor pauper boy shamed and abused daily—he nevertheless had been taught to read and hung on to a thread of pride and just enough self esteem to survive long, lonely winter days and nights thru stories of the past, especially his great(x) uncle’s poetry and romantic dreams of a better, kinder, more beautiful Iceland—who herself, at that time, was suffering greatly including possession of a collective low self esteem from centuries of Danish and Church oppression.
WHY IS THIS DETAIL IMPORTANT TO MY REVIEW?
(At this point, I’m assuming only an Icelander or Canadian/American “New Icelander” has chosen to read this far—or, an “Honorary Icelander” by virtue of possessing the ability to read despite my imperfect grammatical explication—I appreciate your application of The Principle of Charity✨.)
—- the more personal stories I not only love but have had the privilege to meet and “fall in love”💖 as everyone who meets the World’s Most Dynamic and Beautiful 92 Years Young—Ieda Jónasdóttir Herman—coauthored by her youngest daughter equally blessed and talented daughter—Heidi Herman—have created several books that make for not only very relaxing, but entertaining and informative first hand accounts of Ieda’s life growing up in Iceland, as well as Heidi’s “The Guardians of Iceland and Other Icelandic Folktales,” well suited and well written for an audience of all ages.
SO, HOW DOES ANY OF THIS RELATE TO MY ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ REVIEW?
Contrary to the opinion of many, and to possibly my mistaken impression, if not Icelanders and New Icelanders past (like my grandfather) and many Icelanders and current Icelanders (if nobody other than the Icelandic Tourist Board or designates)—in my opinion, rather than considering the unbelievable depths of poverty, suffering, disease, famine abuse and shame that did not discriminate during the darkest of times Iceland had no choice but to endure—against all odds—they somehow managed to survive. They did what they had to do; what they could do—they survived.
My grandfather did not like to talk about Iceland.
All my mother said that he would say when pressed, was that he all he remembered was that he was “always cold and hungry.”
NOT ONLY DOES ALDA WRITE WITH CLARITY, SIMPLICITY AND TRUTH, BUT WITH A STEPHEN COLBERT GENRE INCLUDING A MOST REFRESHING, OFTEN SELF EFFACING HUMOUR WHEN ADDRESSING HONESTLY AND OPENLY
“THINGS THAT MANY PEOPLE PREFER NOT TO TALK ABOUT BECAUSE OF THE DISCOMFORT, PAIN OR EMBARRASSMENT.”
Takk Fyrir, Alda!🌻👏🏻👏🏻
Thank you, Alda!
—for your honesty; for your openness and willingness to approach certain areas that remain sensitive; address subjects that are important to help understand some of the origins of the “quirky” Icelandic proverbs, tales, superstitions, tales, myths and sagas that were lifelines to Icelanders past to survive—alone, cold and hungry—thru merciless winters and natural disasters.
Your brief, but to the point comments not forgetting or avoiding the poorest of the poor little pauper children that were not wanted, but nevertheless as imperfect as we in the 21st century may judge, were loved by Iceland they best she could do at that time—revealed more than fifty books I have read searching for some insight and truth that made my grandfather who he was—the kindest, sweetest, most generous, soft spoken, self taught, good natured and good humored man—who never once in his life raised his hand towards his children but did his best to indulge them, spoil them and love them—and his grandchildren.
Thank you, Afi, for my mother—Grace Sumarros🌹✨—for my brothers and sisters—for being an example of an unshakeable pragmatic optimist tempered by that uniquely Icelandic POV “Þetta Reddast” and by example demonstrating the unlimited potential of a creative, curious mind with an appetite for books as a passport to a good life; a good chance to the best life possible; and as my mother was fond of saying, “We are never too old to learn.”
So Alda, although your brief description of the pitiful life of a niðursetningar ís limited to a few lines—they captured and conveyed the honest but inconvenient truth.
You helped me understand by affirming that these children suffered—and only God and Decode Genetics know how many actually survived.
But as my retired 86 year old RCMP uncle recently pointed out (by the way—always has and still one good looking...what’s the Icelandic word for “Stud Muffin?”😊)
—we of Icelandic descent “have a remarkable ability to heal against the odds.”
I’ve kind of taken that for granted.
Like my Afi—when I was an ignorant little kid more interested in fishing off the Gimli peer; hanging out in the remnants of his iconic Winnipeg bicycle shop where if you were a kid, “Lidi”/Mr. Matthews (adopted from his step father) would charge 25 cents—but if he fixed it outside the door, he fixed the child’s bike for free.
I carried on that family tradition doing housecalls as a rural family doctor.
But from medical scientist discovered a love of poetry before I knew nothing about Jónas Hallgrímsson my grandfather referred to (never by name for some unknown reason) who also morphed from scientist to poetry (except in my case I specialize in being totally unexceptional—but at least smart enough, finally, to appreciate “Journey’s End”—and finally—
the courage of a little boy nobody loved; the ability of this little boy, like Iceland, to survive against all odds.
Thank you to ICELANDICROOTS.COM and continued guidance to navigate thru history with the assistance of Sunna Furstenau and others contributing to Icelandic Roots, as I hope to do as I slowly discover what being an Icelander, a New Icelander, a Canadian Icelander means as I reside in the “remote island” of Tennessee.
I seldom, in fact, I have never bothered to take the time to write an extenders review. And I am quite aware few people read beyond the title, subtitles or “first five words” or sentences.
Alda: I am simply trying to convey the idea that when you write (applicable to any author, I suppose)—one word; one sentence; one paragraph—can have a major impact. An epiphany for some. Perhaps a revelation. A spark that lights the imagination. The answer to a question nobody wants to ask or talk about.
YOUR LITTLE BOOKS ARE BRILLIANT: FUN TO READ; EASY TO READ; A COMBINATION OF CLARITY, BREVITY AND HUMOUR THAT OFFERS AN HONEST AND TRUTHFUL GLIMPSE INTO THE MIND, HEART AND SOUL OF NOT JUST ICELANDERS—BUT ANYONE WHO HAS THE MIND, HEART AND SOUL AND ARE DOING THEIR BEST TO SURVIVE.
Iceland did her best to give a foster child a chance.
Poverty and hard times beyond my best to fully comprehend...
However—my definition of courage and endurance.
By analogy—a John McCain example of the human spirit that transcends petty politics and petty men.
I am proud to be the grandson of a bastard child.
I am proud to be descended from kings and poets and bastards that if not for them, and the grace of God (or proof that God has on e hell of a sense of humor)—I would not be here. Not my nor my children. Or my grandchildren. Alive and thriving.
Thank you, Alda, for giving me pause to think—a little sadly of all the suffering that Icelanders perhaps best embodied in the life and spirit of my grandfather, had to endure that ultimately—gave life and opportunity to so many.
These foster children and all the unsung heroes and small, anonymous acts of kindness and sporadic generosity that were never documented and are lost to history should be acknowledged with admiration and pride.
Thank you for reminding us in your “not so little” Little Books.
I apologize for not editing grammatical, autocorrect or spelling errors.
I truly hope you enjoy a measure of satisfaction from my attempt within the limitations of a 2D text to convey my gratitude and compliments.
Randall Willis MD FACEP (retired)
-forget the above acronyms and subtitute
“Living example of it is never too late to learn.”😊
Cheers and Bléss Bléss
The laughs continue, but gradually as one becomes more steeped in the past times (some not so very far past, as references to her grandmother attest) there is a subtle and moving change in one's *experience* of what one is reading. There are plenty of memorable tid-bits, some funny, some sorrowful: odd superstitions, quirks of the language, the advantages of "badass survivor driftwood" from Siberia, the story of the man freezing to death in the open boat while his companions can do nothing to help him, but the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. The epilogue - which don't try to skip ahead and read, read it when you've read the rest of the book - is a particularly effective piece of writing and a terrific rounding off of the journey one has been on while reading.
On a more technical note, the illustrations by Megan Herbert are such a perfect match in tone and style that one wishes there were a few more of them. The e-book is doubtless a fine read, since it has all of Alda's words, but the physical book is such a pleasure of design and feel - the sort of thing that would have been treasured in a kvöldvaka (read the book!) in The Old Days - that I can't help saying one is missing something with only an electronic version.
It's a very funny book, but it is more than that. With the eerie energy of a Sigur Rós song such as "Kveikur", the sincerity of the singing of Ásgeir Trausti, and the haunting evocativeness of the music of Árstíðir, "The Little Book of the Icelanders in the Old Days" is a truly Icelandic volume not to be missed and deeply to be savoured.