Fish Can Sing, Paperback Book
3.5 out of 5 (1 rating)


Abandoned as a baby, Alfgrimur is content to spend his days as a fisherman living in the turf cottage outside Reykjavik with the elderly couple he calls grandmother and grandfather.

There he shares the mid-loft with a motley bunch of eccentrics and philosophers who find refuge in the simple respect for their fellow men that is the ethos at the Brekkukot.

But the narrow horizons of Alfgrimur's idyllic childhood are challenged when he starts school and meets Iceland's most famous singer, the mysterious Garoar Holm.

Garoar encourages him to aim for the 'one true note', but how can he attain it without leaving behind the world that he loves?


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This is an episodic tale of a boy growing up in an Iceland which is still very traditional, but starting to be affected by the outside world. It manages to combine the cadences of a storytelling tradition with a dry humour (one of the episodes starts, "I have now said something about fish, but I have not said anything yet about the Bible". At first I thought this was going to be about the coming clash between tradition and modernity, and I suppose that is one of the underlying themes, but ultimately it turns into a sort of morality tale - all illustrating, as the grandmother says, that "Slow good luck is best". If I have a criticism, it's that - because the story was episodic - there wasn't much narrative pull - so that once I put the book down, I didn't rush to pick it up again. But when I did pick it up, its charm drew me in again quickly.

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