Jón Eiríksson buried one wife this year.
But how long can his secrets remain hidden?
1686, Iceland. A wild, isolated landscape that can swallow a man without so much as a volcanic gasp, where superstitious Icelanders are haunted by all-too-recent memories of witch trials.
Rósa is leaving her home in Skalholt. Betrothed unexpectedly to the mysterious and wealthy Jón Eiríksson, Rósa travels with her new husband to his isolated, windswept village of Stykkisholmur. Here, the villagers are suspicious of outsiders, and seem fearful of Rósa.
Whispers follow Jón around the unexplained death of his first wife, who he buried in secret in the dead of the night. And Rósa has her own suspicions. Refusing to answer any questions about his first wife, Jón instead gives Rósa a small glass figurine, a glass woman.
Rósa feels a presence in the house, and she can’t shake a dread that darkness is coming. She fears she will be its next victim.
How long before the glass woman shatters?
The Glass Woman by Caroline Lea is a wonderful book, an atmospheric and immersive tale of superstition and salvation. Can we talk about the setting for this novel? Iceland, 1686 – the perfect setting; in the village of Stykkisholmur, the whispers of the locals created this real sense of isolation for Rósa. The cold climate, and the snowfall, enhanced this feeling of isolation, and created not only a sense of loneliness, but brought with it this air of desperation, this need for you, the reader, to know what happened to Jon’s first wife, and whether Rósa is safe.
The characters in this novel aren’t plentiful, but their presence is most certainly felt! Jón had the strongest presence of all, the most dominant, in the sense that the unease that the villagers feel when he is around is also felt by you, the reader. Jón is such bold character, but you just cannot get a read on him, you cannot relax, just like Rósa has her suspicions, you have yours too. Rósa was a likeable enough character, as the central female, she carried the story well, but in this novel, the atmosphere was a character itself! The plot just wraps itself around you, the isolated setting, the cold, it just draws you in in such a compelling way. Also the inclusion of the odd, well-placed, Icelandic word really built on the already strong atmosphere – there is a glossary, so it’s worth checking that out prior to starting the novel, or as you go along, if you cannot determine the meaning of certain words based on their context.
Narrated mostly by Rósa, with the odd chapter from Jón, this novel is emotional when it needs to be, but continuous in its suspense building. The mystery is strong, I thought I had it all figured out, only to be proved wrong, time and time again. The ending was quite a moving one, but a little long winded; while a more succinct ending may have been more preferable, this novel is one not to be missed. A very, very impressive piece of fiction, well-crafted and beautifully written. Such rich storytelling allows you to visualise this novel as you read it, if you’re a fan dark, cold, and moody atmospheres, haunting tales of times past, then you need to lose yourself in The Glass Woman.
*My thanks to the publisher (Michael Joseph) for the review copy, and for inviting me to participate in the blog tour*
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