Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Journey Home: A Novel by Olaf Olafsson

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Pages: 297
Genre: Fiction
Series: No
Publication Date: 2001

Synopsis (From Back of Book):
For years Disa Jonsdottir has lived in the English countryside, managing an inn with her companion, Anthony. Compelled by the demands of time to revisit the village of her childhood, she departs England for her native Iceland. Along the way memories surface - of the silence that grew to mark her relationship with her mother, of the disturbing fate of her German-Jewish lover, of the deeply conflicted feelings surrounding the pivotal encounter she had while working as a cook in a wealthy household.

When I first started "The Journey Home" I thought that this might end up falling under my 20% Rule. But since I just had abandoned Frankenstein and felt guilty about stopping another book. I pushed forward and was rewarded for my effort.

The novel is told in first person style. The main character Disa, kind of reminds me of the butler from "Remains of The Day" by Kazuo Ishiguro. Both of the characters are very proper and English (except that Disa is really Icelandic). The other similarity is that the stories take place in roughly the same time period. Spanning the beginning of WWII and its after math. I wanted to like Disa's character, but just like the butler (I can't remember his name) in "Remains of The Day" they were both to detached for me to really like or care about.

"The Journey Home" is also written in vinaigrette style, sort of like "The House on Mango Street" but Olafsson pulls it off much better. The littler vinaigrette's are like diary entries and lets the reader not only into parts of Disa's current and pass life but also her thought process. Once I got use to how dry her personality was the reading became easier. The only problem that I had with the writing is that there is a lot of back and forth between pass and present. There was never a clear indication when Disa was reflecting on her past. So, I had to pay close attention to the details to see what time frame she was talking about.

The story really picks up when Disa starts her journey back to Iceland and starts to reflect on her pass experiencing and how they all ended up interconnected to one another. I began to look forward to her when she talked about her time with Jakob (the German-Jew lover) and even though I knew what happens to Jakob, I wanted to know how Disa would deal with the final outcome.

I also like how Olafsson put little "clues" to what happened in Disa's past in the story. There are times that you know what the final outcome is going to be, like with Jakob and what happens at the employer's house, but when you get to those moments its nice to finally get a little detail to the whole event.

Olafsson has this great way of ending each little chapter with great sentences. that really got to me. I ended up looking forward to them. They were great little closing to each chapter. For example.

Lonely notes drifting through the emptiness, futile - completely futile.

I took a long time descending the stairs.

I reach for my photo of him.
The lines are so simple but say so much. All the writing in the book is like that, simple yet elegant.

I was only going to give this novel about 3 stars (or 3.5) What pushed this book over the top for me was the last about 50 pages or so. I couldn't put it down. And I almost cried and anything that makes me cry (and not because the book is just that bad) deserves a nice rating.

Pros: Writing, Plot, Style
Cons: Slow at First, Detached Main Character

Overall Recommendation:

I am going to recommend this book. I think that people who enjoyed "Remains of the Day" will really like this one. But expect it to be sort of slow in the beginning and stick to it. You will be rewarded.

Library Challenge (7 out of 25)
Round The World Challenge (3 out of 18)

If you have a review of this book or any other book reviewed on my site. Post a link to that review in the comment section so, I can link back to you.

1 comment:

  1. Glad to know the book worked out for you in the end. Thanks for sharing your views about the book.