Saga of Gudrid-The Far-Traveler chosen for 2015 INL Reads!

Saga-of-Gudrid-hi-resAttendees of the 2015 Icelandic National League of North America convention were the first to learn that a recently published novel is this year’s INL Reads! selection.

Historian Nancy Marie Brown, who is the author of four nonfiction books on Icelandic history, myths, science and sagas, drew from this same source of knowledge for her first work of fiction, The Saga of Gudrid-The Far-Traveler.

Brown had become quite familiar with the story of Guðríður Þorbjarnardóttir, one of the first Viking women to explore North America half millennium before Christopher Columbus traveled there.

Brown first encountered Guðríður (or Gudrid, in English spelling) in the Vinland Sagas while a college student. Years later, through her career as a science writer, she reconnected with this Viking woman while working with an archaeological team exploring a Viking Age house on the farm Glaumbær, Gudrid’s home in the sagas. Through these personal encounters and years of research Brown wrote the nonfiction work, The Far Traveler: Voyages of a Viking Woman (2007).

With her nonfiction account completed, Brown still felt the tug of Gudrid’s story urging her to explore further. Brown said the Vinland Sagas contained many contradictory facts about Gudrid that led Brown to make suppositions about her. In one account Gudrid was married twice, in the other account three times. One account described her as poor. The other said she was rich. Writing nonfiction Brown could only report “possibly this or possibly that” happened. She felt after publication there was more to be said about Gudrid and this led her to decision to write the novel.

Brown said, “The biggest problem for me was genre: Who was I writing for? Where should I begin and end Gudrid’s story? How long should the book be?”

These questions would help focus her writing over the next several years, and she discovered in the process that the story she originally thought would be written for an adult audience turned into a story written for young adults.

Brown said, “The best audience for Gudrid’s story, I decided, were readers Gudrid’s own age when she went exploring: between 14 and 21. These readers would be unlikely to read The Far Traveler, yet they are the ones with whom Gudrid’s story will resonate.”

She added that “It’s been a nice surprise to learn that Gudrid’s story is captivating older (and much older) readers as well.”

Determining the 2015 INL Reads! selection also took a new path by turning to the INL of NA’s Icelandic Online Club to make the choice. Club president Angel Johnson-Nelson polled club members and they chose The Saga of Gudrid-The Far-Traveler, whose official release date is June 2015. The online club plans to enhance the other INL of NA club’s discussions by providing a discussion guide and interview with the author on the INL Reads! website and the club’s facebook page. Other clubs are considering how they might record and post a book discussion with author Nancy Marie Brown who said she would be willing to join club discussions by phone or online chat if scheduling permitted.

The Saga of Gudrid the Far-Traveler should be widely available from your favorite book sellers starting in June 2015.

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2013 INL Reads! Selected at the INL of NA’s Seattle Convention

the young icelander book pic

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2012-13 INL Reads! Selection Made at the 2012 INL of NA Convention

The delegates to the 2012 Icelandic National League of North America in Brandon, Manitoba, selected What the Bear Said, by W.D. Valgardson as the second selection of our INL Reads! program.

You can read more about the selection by clicking the “2012-13 INL Reads! Selection” link. Grab a copy of “Bear,” start reading, and meet back here to discuss!

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Questions and background links for Independent People discussions

Here are some questions some of our INL Reads! readers have posed about our first book, Independent People.

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W.D. Valgardson blogs on Laxness and Independent People

This is a wonderful meditation on Laxness, the nature of genius, the novel “Independent People,” and Icelandic society’s uneasy relationship with all of the above. It is a great opening to formulating your own thoughts or discussions on the novel.

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An Icelandic “Lord’s Prayer”

At a moment in “Independent People,” when the community of sheep farmers was faced with another death, they searched for a way to honor the deceased. They passed around a borrowed copy of Hallgrimur Pjetursson’s “Passion Hymns,” only to discover that none in their party attend church frequently enough to know the tune of the chosen hymn. Reaching deeper into memory, Old Thorthur of Nithurkot was asked to recite the “Lord’s Prayer.” Continue reading

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Great Passages in “Independent People”

As you read “Independent People,” it is impossible to not be impressed with Laxness’ incredible use of language and imagery, which holds true even in translation. I hold up the following passage from the J.A. Thompson translation where Bjartur of Summerhouses lays out his philosophy of life for the visitors to his humble turfhouse. Continue reading

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