Book review: And the Wind Sees All

By Gudmundur Andri Thorsson
Translated from the Icelandic by Andrew Cauthery and Bjorg Arnadottir
Published by Peirene Press

Synopsis: In this story we hear the voices of an Icelandic fishing village. On a summer’s day a young woman in a polka-dot dress cycles down the main street. Her name is Kata and she is the village choir conductor. As she passes, we glimpse the members of the village: a priest with a gambling habit, an old brother and sister who have not talked for years, and a sea captain who has lost his son. But perhaps the most interesting story of all belongs to the young woman on the bicycle. Why is she reticent to talk about her past?

How did this book end up in my hands? The publisher kindly sent me a copy of the book to review. I was only too happy to accept the offer of ‘relaxing Nordic hygge in a book’!

Was it a page-turner? With less than 200 pages, this book can definitely be read in one sitting – unless you’re like me and you like to savour a good translation at a calmer pace.

Having read the synopsis, did the book meet my expectations? I didn’t really know what to expect before I started reading. In my head, I had imagined something similar to a previous title published by Peirene Press - Portrait of the Mother As a Young Woman - where the whole book was one sentence. This wasn’t the case. It was more like meeting old friends, which I would call a success.

Did I like the ending? [no spoilers] The end of the book is also the beginning of the book and vice versa. They are like the wheels of the bike that one of the inhabitants of the village of Valeyri rides throughout the pages. Where do they begin? Where do they end?

Three words to describe it. Evocative. Fascinating. Dreamy.

Do I like the cover? Yes, I do. In addition to being a good match to the other titles in Peirene’s Home in Exile series, it includes some of the key elements of the book.

Have I read any other books by the same author? No, this is his first book to be translated into English.

Will I be recommending this book? If ‘Nordic hygge’ makes you think of something ‘fluffy’, then this book is probably not for you. However, if you like short stories linked by a common thread, idyllic descriptions of nature and a language that is so evocative that you can feel the warmth of the sun on your skin and hear the music that comes out of people’s homes, then this is most definitely for you. I would also recommend it as an introduction to Icelandic life and culture.


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