Book Review: The Glass Woman by Caroline Lea

The Glass WomanAbout the Book

1686, Iceland. An isolated, windswept land haunted by witch trials and steeped in the ancient sagas.  Betrothed unexpectedly to Jón Eiríksson, Rósa is sent to join her new husband in the remote village of Stykkishólmur. Here, the villagers are wary of outsiders.

But Rósa harbours her own suspicions. Her husband buried his first wife alone in the dead of night. He will not talk of it. Instead he gives her a small glass figurine. She does not know what it signifies.

The villagers mistrust them both. Dark threats are whispered. There is an evil here – Rósa can feel it. Is it her husband, the villagers – or the land itself?

Alone and far from home, Rósa sees the darkness coming. She fears she will be its next victim…

Format: Hardcover, ebook (400 pp.)    Publisher: Michael Joseph
Published: 7th February 2019       Genre: Historical Fiction

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My Review

Rosa finds herself far from home, far from everything and everyone she has known, and married to Jon, leader of a remote Icelandic community.  Given the mystery surrounding the death of Jon’s first wife, hints of madness and a loft she is forbidden to enter from which strange noises seem to emanate at night, Rosa could be forgiven for thinking she’s in some 17th century Icelandic version of Jane Eyre or Rebecca.  Add to that Jon’s reluctance to talk about his past and his command that Rosa should not mix with the other villagers and you’ve all the ingredients for a deliciously atmospheric Gothic-style mystery.

The author does a brilliant job of creating an atmosphere of claustrophobia and suffocating seclusion as well as bringing to life the realities of the harsh life of the remote community, the endless domestic drudgery and battle against the elements. ‘The world is reduced – they cannot see the hills, the sky or the endless ocean, only a tiny circle of life and warmth as far as their arms can reach.  Beyond that, an unknown wilderness lies, snaggle-toothed and snarling.’  And there is some imaginative writing such as the fantastic use of alliteration in the sentence, ‘Beneath bulge-bellied clouds, the ground groans.’

There’s also fascinating detail about Icelandic culture of the time including the food, language, household routines, customs, social order and mythology.  It’s a society in which the expected role of women is obedience and where any deviation brings the risk of accusation of witchcraft.

Alternating between the point of views of Rosa and Jon, the narrative switches between past and present until both storylines converge and all is finally revealed. When it is, it’s a story of cruelty, forbidden love, madness born out of grief and unfulfilled desire, dark nights and even darker deeds.

The Glass Woman is an atmospheric, intense and powerful story and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

I received a review copy courtesy of publishers, Michael Joseph, and NetGalley.

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In three words: Atmospheric, dramatic, intense

Try something similar…Smile of the Wolf by Tim Leach (read my review here)

Caroline LeaAbout the Author

Caroline Lea was born and raised in Jersey. She gained a First in English Literature and Creative Writing from Warwick University and has had poetry published in The Phoenix Anthology and An Aston Anthology, which she also co-edited. Her first novel, When the Sky Fell Apart,  was published in 2016. (Photo credit: Twitter profile)

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11 thoughts on “Book Review: The Glass Woman by Caroline Lea

  1. Ooh, I was tempted by this one and then decided I couldn’t fit it in – sounds like I made a big mistake! There’s something about Iceland that seems to lend itself to tales of madness and obsession – those long dark nights perhaps… 😀

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