Review of the Novel “The Tricking of Freya”

THE TRICKING OF FREYA by Christina Sunley is an exquisite book that came highly recommended, but it too me several years to actually read it. When I was in Iceland, the playwright Hline suggested it, and I bought it. The cover was intriguing–a goddess or child floating in glacial waters that would kill a mere mortal in seconds. But the book stayed in the pile as I was distracted by murder mysteries, scientific books on genetics, statistics, and sand, collections of French poetry, and more. I’m not a disciplined reader. But one wintry afternoon last week, THE TRICKING OF FREYA rose to the top.
And I’m glad it did. Set partially in a realistically drawn Iceland, much of the action is in an even more obscure setting–the Icelandic diaspora in Canada. A little known immigrant group, Icelanders fled a 19th century volcanic holocaust that destroyed farmland. The heroine of the novel, Freya, named for the Norse goddess, is raised partially in the U.S. and partially in the Canadian/Icelandic town of Gimli. When her aunt Birdie kidnaps her the plot is off and running–to Iceland, to a search for Birdie’s lost child, and to a quest for self understanding.
The rich language and literature of Iceland plays its own part. In what other archaic poems are there literally a thousand ways to say sword? The characters here are often poets or scholars, drunk on words, inebriated even to the point of mania. Manic depression is a haunting motif, an illness that haunts even characters in the sagas.
The novel is beautifully plotted and described. It treads a path between the literary and the just plain readable. And it was an inexpensive way for me to re-visit Iceland!