I came across this read, thanks to a bookstagram tour organised by Kelly from Love Books Group. It was only an Instagram tour but I was completely drawn in and had to read and review it. I’d like to extend my thanks to Wild Pressed Books for giving me the opportunity read and review this Icelandic translated novel by Thora Karitas Arnadottir. The Swans Began to Sing is now available in both e-book and paperback format here now!
About The Author
Thora studied drama in the UK and for a large part of her life has worked within the acting and production sector. And The Swans Began to Sing is the English translation of her non – fiction book ‘Saga Mommu’ (My Mother’s Story) which has nominated for the Icelandic Woman’s Literary prize in 2016. Thora is currently working on her first novel that is due to be released in Iceland during 2019.
“Gudbjorg Thorisdottir has been hiding from the ghost of an ugly secret for most of her life.
When she finally faces the truth of what happened in her childhood, the ghost floats away.
Pointing an evocative picture of life in Iceland, this is the story of a little girl
Who doesn’t know how unnatural it was to experience both heaven and hell in the same house”
Gudbjorg lives upstairs in her family home in Mork, it’s a redecorated iron house in Reykjavik, Iceland that has been in her family for many generations. Her family life is heaven, but it’s dominated by hell; her Grandpa, who lives on the first floor of the family home.
This is a dark historical story of Gudbjorg’s abuse at the hands of someone that she thought that she could trust with her life. Thora has become the mediator in order to share a written account of her mother’s account of her childhood, up to present day. The book is an encapsulated open window into a story of strength and endurance within an abusive intergenerational relationship.
Firstly, I want to commiserate the strength Gudbjorg has to speak out about her historical abuse, her story of overcoming the bindings of self – guilt is so inspirational. Thora has written this book about her mother’s sexual abuse at the hands of the grandfather, we read how it has affected her both emotionally and mentally throughout her whole life until she can find it in herself to stop feeling guilt and shame for what she has gone through. The support and strength from her mother helped her to overcome her demons, it is then she comes to terms with everything not being her fault, but rather than letting her past define her, she has accepted her past and broken free.
The swan symbolises many things, including transition. I think this symbolism is a big part of the dialogue within this storyline; from child to adult and from victim to survivor. I think this is a very important underlying theme because it puts forward that no matter what you’ve gone through in the past, there can be a turning point in which you can muster the strength to help you to become the person you want to be without the chains of the past holding you back.
After reading, I can completely understand how And The Swans Began to Sing was nominated for an award, the courage and raw emotion throughout the story, as well as subtle indications of the abuse that Gudbjorg fell prey to without full blown details yet still so uncomfortable. It’s heart-breaking that any child has been put through that by anyone, let alone a close family member.
I highly recommend this story of strength, heroism and endurance!