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The Greenlanders

A Novel
Smiley, Jane (Book - 2005 )
Average Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5.
The Greenlanders
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Item Details

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.
Authors: Smiley, Jane
Title: The Greenlanders
a novel
Publisher: New York : Anchor Books, 2005, c1988
Edition: 1st Anchor Books ed
Characteristics: xiii, 581 p. :,maps ;,21 cm
Statement of Responsibility: Jane Smiley
Summary: 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.
ISBN: 9781400095469
1400095468
Branch Call Number: FICTION SMILEY 2005
Subject Headings: Middle Ages Fiction Greenland Fiction
Genre/Form: Historical fiction
Topical Term: Middle Ages
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Library Staff

This book is a teensy bit hard to love at first. It's over 600 pages long. It's told in the somewhat impenetrable style of the Icelandic sagas. There are a bazillion characters, and most of the men have names that start with Thor-. And also, it's the story of a disaster. For hundreds of years, Vi... Read More »

This book, about the failure of the Norse settlement in Greenland in the 14th Century, is not for the faint of heart. It's written in kind of an impenetrable style, similar to that of the Icelandic sagas, and there are hundreds of characters with difficult Norse names to keep straight-- but I got... Read More »

This book, about the failure of the Norse settlement in Greenland in the 14th Century, is not for the faint of heart. It's written in kind of an impenetrable style, similar to that of the Icelandic sagas, and there are hundreds of characters with difficult Norse names to keep straight-- but I got... Read More »

Could this be the harshest, grimmest family saga ever? Plague, violent weather, famine, witchcraft, and apocalyptic prophets all play a role.

The Norseman Erik the Red and his colonists settle Greenland in the 10th century.


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Aug 10, 2012
  • dianabolical rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

This is very different from the other Jane Smiley books I've read. I'm knocked out that she can write in such different styles, and I loved this book.

Norse people settled on Greenland for about four hundred years, until the Little Ice Age made it impossible for them to survive there in about 1400. I was surprised when, about a hundred pages in, I found myself getting completely absorbed in this book and its world. It's told in what can seem like a kind of flat style, maybe like Saga stories from Iceland, and there are over a hundred characters with crazy Viking names, so sometimes it's hard to remember who is who. Life was so bleak and violent, and all of the sudden, a character I'd come to care about would get crushed in the ice, starve to death, die in childbirth, or be bloodily murdered. I got caught up in the rhythms of survival in the north, the spring seal hunt, the short summer of constant hard work, the fall seal hunt, Yule, the hungry time of the year. I have a big weakness for historical fiction, and Greenland is such an alien and interesting place. Plus, it's like reading about the Donner Party or that guy who went up to Alaska and wound up having his story turned into Into the Wild-- you know they're doomed, and it's interesting seeing how it's going to play out.

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Version pocillo (pocillo) Last updated 2014/08/29 09:56