Iceland in the 1960s. Hekla always knew she wanted to be a writer. In a nation of poets, where each household proudly displays leatherbound volumes of the Sagas, and there are more writers per capita than anywhere else in the world, there is only one problem: she is a woman.
After packing her few belongings, including James Joyces’s Ulyssess and a Remington typewriter, Hekla heads for Reykjavik with a manuscript buried in her bags. She moves in with her friend Jon, a gay man who longs to work in the theater, but can only find dangerous, backbreaking work on fishing trawlers. Hekla’s opportunities are equally limited: marriage and babies, or her job as a waitress, in which harassment from customers is part of the daily grind. The two friends feel completely out of place in a small and conservative world.
And yet that world is changing: JFK is shot and hemlines are rising. In Iceland another volcano erupts and Hekla meets a poet who brings to light harsh realities about her art. Hekla realizes she must escape to find freedom abroad, whatever the cost.
Miss Iceland is a novel of extraordinary poise and masterful acuity from one of our most celebrated Icelandic writers.
Praise for Miss Iceland:
Winner of the Icelandic Bookseller’s Prize
“Helka, trying to make it in the big city, a woman in 1960’s Reykjavik weighed down by expectation and constraint. I so wanted Helka to get away and be free, to slap the hands that felt her up and to ditch the boyfriend. Only a great book can make you feel you’re really there, a thousand miles and a generation away. I loved it.”—Kit de Waal
“This quietly moving tale of friendship and artistic fulfillment will appeal to readers of Elena Ferrante and Margaret Atwood, and the unusual setting offers an interesting twist on the portrait of an artist as a young woman.”—Bookpage
“As elegantly cold and foreboding as the Icelandic landscape itself, Olafsdottir’s languid and melancholy portrait of a writer with a singular passion demonstrates the sacrifices women have always made for their art.”—Booklist
“A beautiful book. It is at once a poetic, light-hearted narrative filled with endearing characters; and yet also a sharply edged social critique that is caustic and righteous in its portrayal of the enduring nature of sexism, misogyny and homophobia. Above all, it leaves the reader feeling buoyed and optimistic, despite the serious and oppressive nature of its subject matter. It’s a powerful portrayal of a woman’s struggle for freedom in the 1960s, but its true lesson is for the present, as a gorgeously crafted reminder of the tenacious nature of discrimination and hate, and the determination and commitment that is often required to overcome it.”—Popmatters
“In her sixth novel, award-winning author Ólafsdóttir paints a vivid portrait of Iceland: cold weather, volcanic eruptions, northern lights, whale hunting, darkness, sexism, and homophobia. . . . In this excellent introduction to her work, Ólafsdóttir creates a world where either escape or hiding one’s true nature are the only choices.”—Library Journal
“Ólafsdóttir’s graceful and quiet tale of feminism, alienation, and artistic expression centers around Hekla, a young Icelandic woman who wants to become a writer in a male-dominated literary world…Ólafsdóttir tenderly explores how these authentic characters help each other overcome their fears and doubts. This winning tale of friendship and self-fulfillment will inspire readers.”—Publishers Weekly (starred, boxed review)
“A potent, atmospheric story of creative frustration and fulfilment. I loved the wry, tender voice of Ólafsdóttir’s narrator. I’m now going to read all of her other novels.”—Megan Hunter, author of The End We Start From
International Praise for Miss Iceland:
“Delicate, melancholic and powerful… a luminous portrait of a young woman in search of freedom.”—Lire
“If you have never read Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir, get Miss Iceland immediately”—Vanity Fair (France)
“Her best work. A work that will live on.”—Fréttablaðið
“Each new novel by Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir is like a meeting with a marvelous friend that immediately makes you feel like you have never parted.”—Madame Figaro
“A wonderful novel about freedom, creation and accomplishment.”—Marie Claire (France)
“Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir won the Nordic Council Literature Prize for Hotel Silence. Miss Iceland is likely to win her more accolades because this is her best work… a work that will live on.”—Kolbrún Bergþórsdóttir, Fréttablaðið
“Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir relishes us with all the best things literature can offer.”—Júlía Margrét Alexandersdóttir, Morgunblaðið
“Ólafsdóttir’s specialty is the small journeys we take to save ourselves and the ones we care for. She is the heart’s finest map-maker.”—Sjón
Praise for Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir:
“Olafsdottir’s writing is at once profoundly Icelandic—focusing the reader on all the particularity of life on that isolated island—and universal… Her authorial voice is immediate and intimate, yet it feels remote from the Anglophone world.”—Financial Times
“Ólafsdóttir upends expectations.”—New York Times