Independent People, Paperback
5 out of 5 (5 ratings)

Description

First published in 1946, this humane epic novel is set in rural Iceland in the early twentieth century.

Bjartus is a sheep farmer determined to eke a living from a blighted patch of land.

Nothing, not merciless weather, nor his family will come between him and his goal of financial independence.

Only Asta Solillja, the child he brings up as his daughter, can pierce his stubborn heart.

As she grows up, keen to make her own way in the world, Bjartus' obstinacy threatens to estrange them forever.

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Reviews

Showing 1 - 5 of 5 reviews.

Review by
5

' "It is freedom that we are all after. ..He who keeps his sheep alive through the winter lives in a palace" ', 26 May 2014This review is from: Independent People (Paperback)Utterly compelling work, set in the bleak Icelandic farming world of 1900-20.Bjartur has just acquired his own piece of land after 18 years in thrall to the local bailiff. As he comes home to his humble croft - built on traditionally cursed ground - with his new bride, who is pregnant by another, he is obsessed by his new-found freedom. The pleasure of treating his former boss in a scornful manner; the need to increase his herd of sheep at the expense of all else, make him a seemingly hard and curmudgeonly character. And yet moments of intense emotion pepper the work: Bjartur's relationship with his wife's daughter; the occasional meetings of his wife and her father. One of the most moving parts of the book concerns the family cow...Interspersed with this are the meetings of the uneducated country folk, reminiscent of the unintentionally comic characters in Thomas Hardy's work. Whether they're discussing worms in their sheep, the length of women's skirts or asserting that 'Easter falls on a Saturday this year', the reader feels he's present at their discussions.Such a beautiful book, I think it'll be my number one read for this year.

Review by
5

How to describe this utterly beautiful book? The adjective I most want to use is 'human', although at least half of what is wonderful about this book are the non-human elements: the land, the weather, the sheep.I think I want to use the word 'human' because that's how it makes me feel. Fragile, embattled, prejudiced, hopeful. This is about as perfect as literature gets.

Review by
5

To use an overused cliche; this book changed my life. I do not use the phrase lightly, Independent People is one of the greatest novels of the 20th century, in any language. It answered as well as asked a number of questions of my own life, and I could certainly see myself in Bjartur, for better or worse. The story tells of Bjartur, and his family, on his cursed farm, across 18 long hard years. The life of a sheep farmer is never easy, but is made even tougher in the unforgiving Icelandic landscape, and we follow Bjartur through happy and sad times, prosperity to bankruptcy. As Sigur Rós symbolise a country with their music, so this book by Halldór Laxness does the same with words. The struggle epitomises a great nation and people, still trying to find themselves in the world, while stubbornly refusing the outside help which could be the making of the nation. Iceland as a nation is unique in world literature, as without question it is their greatest passion, far exceeding all other pastimes. Independent People is probably the greatest gift of an Icelander to the world; a beautiful and at times tragic masterpiece.

Review by
5

To use an overused cliche; this book changed my life. I do not use the phrase lightly, Independent People is one of the greatest novels of the 20th century, in any language. It answered as well as asked a number of questions of my own life, and I could certainly see myself in Bjartur, for better or worse. The story tells of Bjartur, and his family, on his cursed farm, across 18 long hard years. The life of a sheep farmer is never easy, but is made even tougher in the unforgiving Icelandic landscape, and we follow Bjartur through happy and sad times, prosperity to bankruptcy. As Sigur Rós symbolise a country with their music, so this book by Halldór Laxness does the same with words. The struggle epitomises a great nation and people, still trying to find themselves in the world, while stubbornly refusing the outside help which could be the making of the nation. Iceland as a nation is unique in world literature, as without question it is their greatest passion, far exceeding all other pastimes. Independent People is probably the greatest gift of an Icelander to the world; a beautiful and at times tragic masterpiece.

Review by
5

A bleak but poetic epic family story of survival in the harsh climate of the Icelandic mountains, this book tells the story of Bjartur, a crofter and sheepfarmer who sacrifices almost everything to his dream of being an independent farmer. Powerful, austere and hauntingly beautiful, it is also a microcosm of the history of Iceland and a devastating critique of the economic and political conditions that exploited the rural poor in the early 20th century.

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