Names for the Sea: Strangers in Iceland

Counterpoint. May 2013. 368p. ISBN 9781619021228. pap. $17.95. TRAVEL
OrangeReviewStarBritish novelist Moss (Cold Earth) has crafted a beautifully written account of her time living and teaching in Iceland, an insular nation perched on the outermost edge of Europe. She expertly captures the essence of the landscapes, especially in her descriptions of the strange emptiness that pervades the settled areas, as though people live there but no one is home. Her confessional and poetic writing style accurately conveys the discomfort of trying to fit into a society that seems as though it should be familiar but is unlike anything else the author has known. Moss does an excellent job of verbalizing the outsider experience of the nonnative: embarrassed about making Icelanders speak English to her and too shy to speak Icelandic to them, she tells of avoiding basic activities like shopping so she won't have to talk to anyone. Her conversations with various individuals nevertheless give readers a vivid portrait of Icelandic thinking and social culture.
VERDICT An extremely insightful, accessible piece of travel writing on Iceland, this book will broadly appeal to all types of readers.
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