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What did you like best about The Greenlanders? What did you like least?
Jane Smiley claimed she "chanelled" the writing here and produced a tale very much like the Old Norse sagas. That is, she shears it of overt characterization and literary ornament. It's an admirable ambition, but I am glad I read Njal's and Egil's sagas first to get the flavor.
Unfortunately, the result is numbing. It's epic in size but not in energy. The people come and go, but little grasp remains for the listener of who's who, and it's difficult to care much. I wanted lots more about the decline of Greenland's Norse settlers, but it's vague; wrapped up in accusations of witchcraft, convincing in theory, but not as a fictional pageturner.
Has The Greenlanders turned you off from other books in this genre?
I doubt if there are other books in this genre. Only "Wayward Heroes" by Halldor Laxness to my knowledge represents for a wider audience a literary-minded author taking this theme up.
What does Ralph Lister bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?
I liked his ravings as Loras the crazed prophet late on. This was one time the voices came alive. He tries his best, but over so long a trek, it's hard to make this material exciting enough
Did The Greenlanders inspire you to do anything?
To find out more about the real Viking and later Norse contexts, as Jesse Byock has shown in Iceland. It also led me to seek out Neil Gaiman's retelling of Norse myth, a subject I knew nearly nothing about. So, while the tale itself lagged, the medievalist in me found inspiration.
Any additional comments?
Smiley tried in "Ten Days in the Hills" to retell Boccaccio's "Decameron." She did not succeed, but she at least has the legacy of a medieval literature Ph.D. to give her ideas. I read her big book about ways of looking at fiction similarly. She never draws me in, however.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
This book is something of a hard sell. An epic tale of medieval Greenland as the climate changes and society starts to fail. For ages I couldn't face it but actually it is fantastic. It has a compelling story, sympathetic and beautifully realized characters and it's an amazing piece of writing- it's epic, intimate and will transport you to a different world. Think 'Some Luck' in 14th century Greenland. The style takes a little getting used to but stick with it, it's great.
What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?
Has The Greenlanders put you off other books in this genre?
Just the author and narrator
Any additional comments?
Very disappointed, couldn't get into the book at all, neither the storyline nor the narrator, I managed about half an hour and put it away in disgust.
0 of 6 people found this review helpful