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The Greenlanders by Jane Smiley

The Greenlanders (1988)

by Jane Smiley

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A masterly crafted yet tedious book. ( )
  Sean_Murphy | Dec 23, 2017 |
A masterly crafted yet tedious book. ( )
  Sean_Murphy | Dec 23, 2017 |
Wonderful saga, GoT without the violence and pornography. Offers lots to think about re life, death, civilizations, nature of man, our perceptions of God. Written 30 years ago, have read other books by Smiley Annie inclined to read them all. Received many good reviews at the time. ( )
  patsemple | Dec 30, 2016 |
You think you got problems? Try living in Norse Greenland in the Little Ice Age. If you don't kill enough seals at the autumn hunt, you and your family might starve over the winter. That is if you don't die of the "vomiting ill" or get axe-murdered by a neighbor over some stupid feud. Geez.

This prodigious novel reads sometimes like a fantasy, the culture and everyday lives of the people being so strange. And at times like a "lost colony" SF novel, the community so isolated that a ship from Europe arrives only once every ten years or so (and when it does, it's a mixed blessing).

But mostly it reads like the Icelandic sagas that author Jane Smiley seems to have deliberately used as her model: rich interwoven story lines, fierce and stoical characters, straightforward prose that never rises from its matter-of-fact tone no matter how harsh or horrendous the events it tells.

I found the book slow at first, but eventually got caught up in all the strangeness and the fates of the characters. (And boy, are they fated!)

A profound, high-quality historical novel. Not recommended if you're already depressed.
( )
  JackMassa | Nov 23, 2016 |
A very strange thing happened after reading this book. I googled it, thinking surely some geek/scholar had a field day fact-checking this massive tome of historical fiction. I was very interested in seeing exactly how much of this medieval Norse world was based on archaeological fact, and how much creative discretion the author took in creating a dramatic narrative. Nothing. Nada, not a blip. How unfortunate that I may be one of the few people who read and absorbed this wonderful book.

I'll admit, I read it in two big chunks. Yes, the book is only 600 pages, which is long for me. However, there are two interrelated aspects of the book that make it hard to digest. First, the formatting a bit odd: three books with no chapter breaks, only paragraph after paragraph, with scene changes and time lapses built right into the text. Second, the book is very information dense, with vocabulary words and hundreds of people, places, and things to keep track of with the aid of only a very paltry appendix of maps and family trees. I believe that what she was going for was very similar to what [a:Michael Crichton|5194|Michael Crichton|https://d.gr-assets.com/authors/1359042651p2/5194.jpg] did with [b:Eaters of the Dead|7664|Congo/Sphere/Eaters of the Dead|Michael Crichton|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1298413296s/7664.jpg|7185399]: It feels as if she took a real manuscript and challenged herself as a writer to imitate that style.

That aside, I loved reading this book! Not nearly as much as [b:A Thousand Acres|41193|A Thousand Acres|Jane Smiley|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1388197504s/41193.jpg|2234336], but I really loved it. Part of my literary fascination comes with understanding how people used to live. As a schoolkid I hated history, but as an adult, I've found the right books and subjects and opened up whole worlds. This is as close as I believe I will ever come to travelling in a time machine! ( )
1 vote Victor_A_Davis | Sep 18, 2015 |
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par munu eftir, undrasmatigar, guttnar toftur, i grasi finnask, paers i ardaga, attar hofdu. Afterwards they will find the chessmen, marvelous and golden in the grass, just where the ancient gods had dropped them. "Voluspa" ("The Sayings of the Prophetess")
This book is fondly dedicated to Elizabeth Stern, Duncan Campell, Frank Ponzi, and to the memory of Knud-Erik Holm-Pedersen.
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Asgeir Gunnarsson farmed at Gunnars Stead near Undir Hofdi church in Austfjord.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 044991089X, Paperback)

--The New York Times Book Review
Jane Smiley, the Pultizer Prize-winning author of A Thousand Acres, gives us a magnificent novel of fourteenth-century Greenland. Rich with fascinating detail about the day-to-day joys and innumerable hardships of remarkable people, The Greenlanders is also the compelling story of one family--proud landowner Asgeir Gunnarsson; his daughter Margret, whose willful independence leads her into passionate adultery and exile; and his son Gunnar, whose quest for knowledge is at the compelling center of this unforgettable book. Echoing the simple power of the old Norse sagas, here is a novel that brings a remote civilization to life and shows how it was very like our own.
"TOTALLY COMPELLING . . . FASCINATING . . . In the manner of the big books of the nineteenth century, in which complex family and community matters unravel--Dickens, Dumas, Tolstoy--The Greenlanders sweeps the reader along. . . . Jane Smiley is a true storyteller."
--The Washington Post
--USA Today
--The New Republic

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:15:43 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

The Greenlanders is the compelling story of one family--proud landowner Asgeir Gunnarsson; his daughter Margret, whose willful independence leads her into passionate adultery and exile; and his son Gunnar, whose quest for knowledge is at the compelling center of this unforgettable book.… (more)

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