I finished "The Greenlanders" last week, and highly recommend it to people interested in Scandinavian history, and to those who just want a good read. It's tale of one family's fate in 14th century Greenland, and really Greenland's fate, too. It is bleak, but it really sucked me in. I had to force myself to go to put it down, not just because I was staying up too late reading, but I wanted to savor the story.
It was especially neat to read this after "Kristin Lavransdatter". They are both sagas in a 14th century Scandinavian setting, but so different. If life seemed rough in Kristin's world, it is downright brutal for the Greenlanders.
From the back cover:
Set in the fourteenth century in Europe's most far-flung outpost, a land of glittering fjords, blasting winds, sun-warmed meadows, and high, dark mountains, The Greenlanders is the story of one family - proud landowner Asgeir Gunnarsson; his daughter Margret, whose willful independence leads her into passisonate adultery and exile; and his son Gunnar, whose quest for knowledge is at the center of this unforgettable book. Jane Smiley takes us into this world of farmers, priests, and lawspeakers, of hunts and feasts and long-standing feuds, and by an act of literary magic, makes a remote time, place, and people not only real but dear to us.My knowledge of Greenland was pretty sketchy, I didn't even know that Iceland was inhabited first. I bought "A History of the Vikings" by Gwyn Jones to learn more. This is a classic that has been updated several times over the years. Turns out most Icelanders where from Norway. I knew they were Scandinavian, but I didn't realize primarily Norwegian. On my shelf I already had "Vikings - The North Atlantic Saga" which answered my questions about who is in Greenland today. Don't let the bargain price at Amazon influence you. It is great book with a lot of photographs and history. The question of what happened to the last Greenlanders of European descent is still debatable.
I highly recommend "The Greelanders" and the two Viking books I mentioned.
Now I'm reading "Moo" also by Jane Smiley. A great departure from "The Greelanders".
(Anna K. Sisters - we have both Smiley books in our library)