A writer ponders the sustainability of both her relationships and the environment in this autobiographical novel-in-diary-entries.
The narrator of this novel by an Icelandic poet and occasional Björk collaborator is dating an ornithologist, nicknamed Birdy, and is close to her brother, an archaeologist named Owlie. Convenient gigs, given that her chief concerns in this book are love, nature, and history, which she explores during her hiking and camping trips through Iceland as well as during brief detours to England and France. She goes bird-watching on a beach; ponders settling down and having kids in Reykjavik; visits ancient settlements, gravesites, and museums; explores the profundity of Snoop Dogg’s lyrics; and generally contemplates the meaning of home. (“A place of experimentation and discovery...where the most natural in each individual can be developed.”) At her best, these ramblings suggest a modern-day Walden, in which a writer communes with the environment to better contemplate the complexities of being. She quotes other writers often (including Thoreau): visiting William Wordsworth’s home, for instance, she’s moved to ask, “Why not renew Romanticism, re-clarify the relationship between creation and memory?” Left to her own devices, though, her musings sometimes drift into freshman-dorm–ish philosophizing. (“No, not back to nature, but forward! Forward to nature!” “I think that farmers should be psychoanalyzed, and rethink their connections with the earth and masculinity.”) Yet there’s something admirably consistent about her vision of stewardship—of life, of relationships, of land—that makes her political naiveté forgivable. When she writes about the charm and beauty of the places she visits, you want to pitch a tent right alongside her.
Clumsy as rallying cries go but otherwise a graceful vision of a slower, more emotionally in-touch way of life.