Island by Siri Ranva Hjelm Jacobsen, translated from the Danish by Caroline Waight
Published by Pushkin Press, 2020
My rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
When her immigrant grandmother dies, a young Danish woman travels to the Faroe Islands to trace her family heritage, and to explore the land she has always considered home, despite never having lived there.
Thematically, this is such an interesting and ruminative little novel, exploring the concepts of place and home by asking us to consider what constitutes the latter; why some may choose to leave, and why others may choose to return. The prose is peppered with evocative imagery, particularly when describing the landscape. I thought this worked especially well considering the importance of the book’s setting in relation to its themes.
Less successful for me was the book’s handling of perspective and overall structure. The narrative weaves between multiple characters and timelines in a way that feels disorientating. It’s possible that this was deliberate, but I found it somewhat jarring nonetheless. Covering three generations of a family in two separate countries, the non-linear approach and abrupt shifts in focus made it difficult to keep track of how everyone fit into the bigger picture at times.
Semi-autobiographical and fairly light in plot, it’s a novel that won’t work for some readers, but for those interested in musings on the intersection of home, culture, heritage, and family, this is a sensitive and thoughtful offering worth having on your radar.
Thank you to the publisher for a free advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.