[excellent book cover with a clever, Iceland-related knitted design]
It's Reading Week for Tom and Alice's universities, so I am having a reading week here.
I read Names for the Sea by Sarah Moss when we were staying in the little lock-keeper's cottage recently. When we weren't walking, we were reading in comfortable chairs, warmed by the very crackly log fires that Simon made in the 200 year old range. The heat and cosiness turned out to be significant to the enjoyment of the book which does a wonderful job of making you feel the cold, the wind, the ice, the snow of Iceland; this is not a book you'd want to read while shivering at a bus stop or in an underheated room.
I'm not sure how I came to read it; I think I'd heard mention of knitting in it, and the idea of a year in Iceland fits in well with my fascination (obsession) with Antarctica, and the way that humans deal with extremes of cold. Plus, as someone who has spent six years as an expat with young children, I wanted to find out what it would be like to turn up in Reykjavik and cope with the new way of life.
Sarah Moss writes extremely well and I enjoyed the early, more personal chapters the most. I wasn't as interested in Icelandic banks and trolls and volcanoes as I was in the sections on the culture of knitting, Icelandic society, food, design, education, family life, dark days and long nights, landscape and skies. These, and the ideas of 'foreign-ness', were what made the book so interesting for me.
But, as a former 'trailing spouse', I found myself wondering what her husband made of it all and, more to the point, what he did every day when the children were at school/nursery. Disappointingly, there is very little about him - there is mention of some bread-making, but very little else. This makes for a curious Anthony-shaped gap in the centre of the book. As anyone who has moved abroad and taken a young family with them knows, it's an arrangement that it has to work for everyone in order to succeed. So by the end of the book, I wasn't seduced into wanting to visit Iceland (although I'd be happy to see the strange landscapes, do some knitting, and swim outdoors in some of the many pools), but it did make me spend a lot of time considering once again the infinitely interesting subjects of family life and domestic arrangements.
[My friend, Adèle Geras, wrote an interesting review which I found after I'd finished the book.]