The Greenlanders

The Greenlanders

Book - 1988
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"HAUNTING." --The New York Times Book Review Jane Smiley, the Pultizer Prize-winning author of A Thousand Acres, gives us a magnificent novel of fourteenth-century Greenland. Rich with fascinating detail about the day-to-day joys and innumerable hardships of remarkable people, The Greenlanders is also the compelling story of one family--proud landowner Asgeir Gunnarsson; his daughter Margret, whose willful independence leads her into passionate adultery and exile; and his son Gunnar, whose quest for knowledge is at the compelling center of this unforgettable book. Echoing the simple power of the old Norse sagas, here is a novel that brings a remote civilization to life and shows how it was very like our own. "TOTALLY COMPELLING . . . FASCINATING . . . In the manner of the big books of the nineteenth century, in which complex family and community matters unravel--Dickens, Dumas, Tolstoy--The Greenlanders sweeps the reader along. . . . Jane Smiley is a true storyteller." --The Washington Post "A POWERFUL, MOVING STUDY OF HUMAN FRAILTY AND THE EPHEMERAL NATURE OF COURAGE AND LOVE." --USA Today "WONDERFUL . . . A HISTORICAL NOVEL WITH THE NEARNESS OF CONTEMPORARY FICTION." --The New Republic "[AN] EPIC MASTERPIECE . . . SPELLBINDING." --Newsday
Publisher: New York : Knopf, 1988
ISBN: 9780394551203
0394551206
Characteristics: xiii, 558 p

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r
rationallady
Oct 30, 2014

I loved this book. It was an ethno vacation to a vanished culture. The Norse colony on Greenland lasted almost 500 years. Jane Smiley relates sixty years in the life of one family in quotidian detail with something exciting happening every so often, the way life was for most people in the past. This is a book to savor over the course of a month. Get in your time machine and spend an hour with the Greenlanders. You'll remember your trips long afterwards.

d
dianabolical
Aug 10, 2012

This is very different from the other Jane Smiley books I've read. I'm knocked out that she can write in such different styles, and I loved this book.

Norse people settled on Greenland for about four hundred years, until the Little Ice Age made it impossible for them to survive there in about 1400. I was surprised when, about a hundred pages in, I found myself getting completely absorbed in this book and its world. It's told in what can seem like a kind of flat style, maybe like Saga stories from Iceland, and there are over a hundred characters with crazy Viking names, so sometimes it's hard to remember who is who. Life was so bleak and violent, and all of the sudden, a character I'd come to care about would get crushed in the ice, starve to death, die in childbirth, or be bloodily murdered. I got caught up in the rhythms of survival in the north, the spring seal hunt, the short summer of constant hard work, the fall seal hunt, Yule, the hungry time of the year. I have a big weakness for historical fiction, and Greenland is such an alien and interesting place. Plus, it's like reading about the Donner Party or that guy who went up to Alaska and wound up having his story turned into Into the Wild-- you know they're doomed, and it's interesting seeing how it's going to play out.

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