The Glass Woman

Harper. Sept. 2019. 400p. ISBN 9780062935106. $27.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062935120. F
The prolog sets the tone of this novel set in 17th-century Iceland. A frozen corpse rises from the icy sea while suspicious villagers stare in horror. After her father’s death, Rósa’s only hope of helping her ailing mother survive winter is marrying Jón, a prosperous trader. In his croft near the sea, Jón forbids Rósa from interacting with anyone in his village. But she can’t ignore rumors about his first wife’s death, mysterious sounds from the locked attic, and hostility from the local pastor determined to replace ancient beliefs in runes and sagas with harsh Christian precepts. The reappearance of Jón’s first wife reveals shocking secrets and adds to the mounting violence, betrayals, and death. Chapters of Jón’s and Rósa’s recollections supply details from their pasts, but the major events occur as winter closes in and makes self-preservation paramount. There are a few glimmers of hope: a village woman’s support for Rósa; Jón’s bond with his companion, Pétur; Rósa’s love for a man from home. Lea’s (When the Sky Fell Apart) strongest achievement is her sustained portrayal of isolation, superstition, and fear among hardened people in a harsh environment.
VERDICT Readers with a high tolerance for terror and despair or an interest in Icelandic history and lore are the most likely audience for this dark novel.

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