Review: The Tricking of Freya by Christina Sunley
Title: The Tricking of Freya
Author: Sunley, Christina
Length: 344 pages
Genre: Fiction, General
Publisher / Year: Picador, St. Martin’s Press / 2009
Source: This was sent to me for review by Terra Communicators.
Why I Read It: One of my favorite reads last year was Iceland by Betsy Tobin. That book is a retelling of the Norse myth of Freya set in Iceland around 1oooAD. It got me interested in Iceland, in Freya, in Norse mythology. When I saw reviews of this book, I knew that I wanted to read it.
Date Read: 14/07/10
This book was everything I expected it to be, and more. I am having a hard time writing up a description that even almost does this book justice, so here is from the back cover:
Freya Morris is living in New York, far removed from her family and her past, when she is summoned back to the formative place of her youth, a remote Canadian village called Gimli, where her Icelandic ancestors settled long ago. Her ancient grandmother, a woman who knows all the family stories, now clings to life. In Gimli, Freya picks up the thread of a secret – one that leads her through her history and ultimately back to Iceland. Along the way, we learn the story of her early visits to Gimli, the truth about her exuberant, mercurial aunt, and the full scope of a tragedy that shattered her childhood in an instant.
This book is written in the form of letters, by Freya, to a cousin whom she has just learned of. In the letters she unfolds her story bit by bit, drawing you in more and more with each chapter. Occasionally she gets lots in recollection or debate, and occasionally she talks directly to her cousin, so it is as if she is conversing directly with us.
The language in this book is incredible. Everything seems so real and plausible. Each character is just flawed enough, or normal enough, to be believable. When events are described from when Freya was young, her childhood naiveté is so vividly believable and hilarious. Icelandic words and sentences are mixed in which gives the book an authentic feel. The place descriptions are wonderful and make me want to visit.
In fact, the Icelandic language and culture is almost a character itself in the book. The interjection of so many Icelandic words, sayings, dishes, was what made the book such a great read for me. The importance of culture is a big topic. When Birdie (Freya’s aunt) is talking to Freya’s mom about teaching her Icelandic, here mom asks what good it would do. Birdie responds, on page 34-5:
Good? What good? I’ll tell you what good. ‘Language is a solemn thing. It grows out of life, out of its agonies and ecstasies, its wants and its weariness. Every language is a temple, in which the soul of those who speak it is enshrined.’ Oliver Wendell Holmes. That’s what good it does. Sacred good.
I loved the importance that was given in this book, and that is given in Iceland, to the language, to books, to literature. My favorite Icelandic quote from the book is Blindur er boklaus madur – Blind is the bookless man. (from page 80). Isn’t that such a wonderful line?
The book leads slowly but surely to the cataclysmic even that is referenced through the book but we never really know what happens. All we know is that Birdie is dead and Freya hasn’t gone back to Gimli since.
We are also drawn slowly but surely to find out who ‘you’ is. Freya is always writing to ‘you’, to this cousin whom she has discovered she has. The reader gets drawn in to needing to know who this cousin is. I hoped that Freya would find her, I found myself rooting for her through all that happens. Reading the rest of the story and looking for clues. In the end, I was surprised. I had kind of guessed a few different things, but Sunley really kept me guessing until the end. It was great.
This was a wonderful book that I highly recommend. I now want to go to Iceland, and I want to learn Icelandic! A great accompaniment to the book is Christina Sunley’s blog where she posted pictures and stories of her trip to Iceland. It was great to see pictures of some of the places she had been. Go check it out!