Monday, August 15, 2011

Canberra Times review

Sara Dowse's review of The Promise of Iceland has appeared in the Canberra Times. Her very interesting (and, he boasts, positive) review ties the book to public discourses around parenting and privacy laws. She continues,

The Promise of Iceland is, in effect, that of Gislason's three strong formative loves. The first is his mother, an intriguingly complex and adventurous woman whom her son attempts to fathom with tremendous sensitivity and respect. Susan Reid (she was married before her liaison and kept her husband's name) had a passion for travel and, ultimately, Iceland became her dreamland. What Gislason does particularly well is make a case for the significance of place in people's lives, and indeed, his mother's love for the beauty of Iceland and the tight-knit community of its stoic, hard-drinking people is ultimately mirrored in his own. And further, Iceland's pull on him is bound up with his seemingly unrequited love for his father.


It's not usual for me to give the bones of a plot to readers--it's generally bad reviewing and spoils things for the reader. I've relented in this case because the plot is not really the meat of this narrative, which is how a young boy who's been raised in somewhat extraordinary circumstances grows into a highly perceptive and self-aware man, courageous enough to break the taboo surrounding his birth. What it illustrates clearly is the powerful need children have in most cases for the love of both their parents, and the necessity of loving them regardless of whether that love is judged by others to be undeserved. The journeys to Iceland, then, a country beautifully realised in the book's pages, are truly stations on the author's bumpy, if often amusing, road to healing and self-knowledge.

(from the "Panorama" lift-out in the Canberra Times, 13/8/11, p. 26)