Miss Iceland

Black Cat: Grove Atlantic. Jun. 2020. 256p. ISBN 9780802149237. pap. $16. F
After saying good-bye to her father and her small town, Hekla travels to Reykjavík to find a job; live with her best friend, Jón John, who is gay; and write as much as possible. But Iceland in the 1960s is not receptive to women writers. Apart from working as a waitress and fending off the aggressive advances of male customers, her only options are to compete for the Miss Iceland title or to marry and have children like her childhood friend Ísey. In her sixth novel, award-winning author Ólafsdóttir (Hotel Silence) paints a vivid portrait of Iceland: cold weather, volcanic eruptions, northern lights, whale hunting, darkness, sexism, and homophobia. Hekla, who is named after a volcano, perseveres with help from Jón John, her father, and Ísey, even if an affair with a poet ends when he discovers that she is the better writer. For Hekla and Jón John to survive, they must leave.
VERDICT In this excellent introduction to her work, Ólafsdóttir creates a world where either escape or hiding one’s true nature are the only choices. [See Prepub Alert, 12/2/19.]

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