Isn’t it amazing how people can read the same book and yet have such contrasting reactions and opinions about it? I just read a review of this book which damned it with faint praise and yet also offered very legitimate and well written reasons as to why that particular reader didn’t connect with the story or characters. Well, my experience could not have been more different. I adored this book – the story, the use of real history, the wonderful rich and complex characters – so much so, I slowed down my reading because I didn’t want this tale to end.
So, what’s it about? Set in the late 1800s, and in a world that mirrors our own but isn’t quite the same (for example, there’s magic), the action occurs when the suffragette movement was finding its legs and voice in the USA. It’s about three estranged sisters, Juniper, Agnes and Beatrice who, almost against their will, find themselves together in New Salem where the women’s movement is struggling to be heard. Forced to hide and even deny their magic, women and witches have endured oppression, bigotry and violence for centuries and this appears to be gaining momentum. As the blurb says, there are patriarchal forces out there who will not suffer a witch/women to vote – or live. But those forces didn’t account for the combined power of the three sisters nor the magic they unwittingly unleash and must now seek to harness if they don’t want the dark powers stalking and haunting them to silence them and thus all women/witches once and for all.
Exquisitely written, rich and dark, this tale about some women’s fight for recognition, for basic human rights and the lengths they’re forced to go to in order to secure these, the sacrifices they’re prepared (and not) to make, echoes loudly even in these times. It is a tale fraught with peril, dangerous beauty and wonderful friendships. It’s about love, loss and the troublesome nature of families and the bonds that both unite and divide, and how our pasts have an unfortunate habit of coming back to plague us. Imaginative, wondrous and so relatable in the here and now, this is a marvellous book that will linger long after the last heart-wrenching page.
Tags: abuse, Alix E. Harrow, bigotry, feminism, magic, oppression, patriarchy, resilience, right to vote, suffragettes, The Once and Future Witches, witches, women's voices
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Arctic Chill by Arnaldur Indridason is the third book in the Reykjavik mysteries I’ve read and proves what a consistently strong series and masterful writer Indridason is.
The book opens with the city in the grip of a bleak and icy winter. Winds are blowing from the north, ravaging the landscape and making outdoors decidedly unpleasant. When a young Thai immigrant is found dead not far from his home, his little body stuck to the ice and anorak torn, Detective Inspector Erlendur and his team suspect a racially motivated crime.
As they delve further into the child’s tragic death, and get to know the nuclear family of which he was a part, they come to understand what it means to leave one’s motherland, family and culture to start afresh on the other side of the world and the commitment and desire that drives such a relocation. They also unleash a nest of bigots who make the immigrants’ life a misery and who rail against what they perceive as a threat to Icelandic traditions and culture and language.
Is the desire to maintain a status quo motivation for murder? The closer Erlendur gets the truth, the more tragic this tale of xenophobia, desperation to preserve Icelandic history and culture becomes.
This novel resonated so strongly with the current political and cultural climate, not just in Australia, but in many other countries around the world who have experienced waves of immigration and those who harden their hearts and close their minds to both the plight of refugees and Otherness and the positive experiences that can be had by welcoming them.
Erlendur and his team are dogged and loyal; the questions they ask of suspects and themselves are real and probing and while the book is about a crime, perhaps the greatest is the lack of humanity we show to those with whom, in the end, we have far more in common with than any differences.
Another great, thought-provoking read.
Tags: Arctic Chill by Arnaldur Indridason, bigotry, culture, fear, immigration, murder, Otherness, racism, Reykjavik, xenophobia
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