Sunday, 23 October 2011

FICTION REVIEW: Heaven and Hell - Jon Kalman Steffanson

Release Date: 30/09/11


In a remote part of Iceland, a boy and his friend Barður join a boat to fish for cod. A winter storm surprises them out at sea and Barður who has forgotten his waterproof as he was too absorbed in 'Paradise Lost', succumbs to the ferocious cold and dies. Appalled by the death and by the fishermen's callous ability to set about gutting the fatal catch, the boy leaves the village, intending to return the book to its owner. The extreme hardship and danger of the journey is of little consequence to him - he has already resolved to join his friend in death. But once in the town he immerses himself in the stories and lives of its inhabitants, and decides that he cannot be with his friend just yet.

Set at the turn of the twentieth century, Heaven and Hell is a perfectly formed, vivid and timeless story, lyrical in style, and as intense a reading experience as the forces of the Icelandic landscape themselves. An outstandingly moving novel.


This is a different type of book to the usual type I review but to be honest it was a refreshing change to get a pure fiction over a lot other elements as its more character driven whilst bringing the harshness of reality of fishing to the reader. It’s cleverly plotted and has a raw emotional aspect throughout which really helps the reader get to grip and care about the principle character. Add to this some interesting prose and a wonderful translation which overall gave me something that I thoroughly enjoyed even as I turned the final page.

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