Magma by Thóra Hjörleifsdóttir
Translated from the Icelandic by Meg Matich
Published by Grove Atlantic, 2021
Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
This strangely enthralling read documents one young woman’s experiences within a physically and emotionally abusive relationship. The stripped back style creates a sense of constant momentum, which in turn establishes a stifling, claustrophobic atmosphere that saw me immediately drawn in. In fact, I felt so invested in our heroine’s fate that I found myself racing through the book in a single sitting.
For a relatively slight novel, the author does a fantastic job of showcasing the realities of isolation and depression. With a deft hand, she shows the devastating impact of abuse, and just how easy it can be for perpetrators to coerce and manipulate those around them; forcing them into modifying their own behaviour and gaslighting them into self-blame.
My only gripe with the book comes with the ending, which is inherently tricky to discuss without resorting to spoilers. Suffice to say that, while I appreciated the outcome from a narrative perspective, the potentially clumsy message it conveyed worked less well for me.
Still, this slight blip didn’t detract from the overall success of the sucker punch that is this little novel. It’s brutally honest in its portrayal of a woman in decline, without ever feeling gratuitous, and it serves as a poignant reminder that even the most outwardly strong and carefree among us can be broken.
I sincerely hope more of Thóra Hjörleifsdóttir’s work is translated into English in the future!
Thank you to the publisher for a free advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.