Names for the Sea is Moss's memoir of her family s first year in Iceland, a journey from southern England to the nether reaches of the North Pole, and it is quite a ride. In fact, it s one of the most enjoyable travel books I ve read ... What I was thrilled to read was the mundane oddness ... It s hilarious in its unexpectedness, more like a dispatch from Gulliver than A Year in Provence ... This is a work of humour, for sure, and I loved her puncturing of Icelanders tales of derring-do, the obsession with pride and shame. More than that, it s a work of strange intelligence that jars like poetry. So many passages made me pause, to long to read her two novels ... Moss does eventually return, and Iceland is so odd it instantly starts to feel for her fictional . I feel the same about this book: it has beauty enough to feel fictional --The Times
A fascinating and unusual book, a genuine news from nowhere, the gripping account of one person thinking and perceiving for herself --Literary Review
Sarah Moss had long had a romantic fascination with Iceland, born out of reading The Snow Queen as a child and Icelandic sagas at university. In 2009, feeling bored of her middle class life with two children and a respectable job in a small English town, she applied for and got a job at the university of Reykyavik. It turned out to be a tumultuous time for Iceland: the day she accepted, the Icelandic economy crashed and her future salary went through the floor. Halfway through her stay, Eyjafjallajokull erupted.
Most of the travel books about Iceland are written by men discovering their inner Viking, riding bareback across glacial rivers and taking on the locals in drinking contests. Sarah instead lived and worked in Reykjavik for a year, sent her children to the local schools, tried to entertain them on winter weekends when the sun rises at lunchtime and sets an hour later, learnt to cook with local ingredients and haltingly made friends. But the book is not just domestic and mundane - it also contains much magic: watching the auroa borealis, visiting the volcano, swimming in steamy outdoor pools, meeting people who talk to elves...