3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Well-crafted historical tale -- true to its origins!,
By A Customer
This review is from: The Greenlanders (Paperback)Interesting how perceptions & ratings vary re: the same material. Contrary to the review appearing below mine, I found this book to be a fine historical piece (though I only rated it one notch above the other reviewer -- I suppose we have different standards). Written in saga form (to evoke the people & times it is intended to describe), this novel captures the clean-lined, flat beauty of saga prose. The story itself reflects the last 50 years or so of the Norse colony in Greenland as it slid into oblivion beneath the combined weight of a dramatically colder climate & its consequent abandonment by Europe. Increasingly beleaguered by a climate which shrunk the growing and grazing seasons and made it more difficult to attempt the ocean-going passage to Greenland using the available sea-going technology of the times, the Greenlanders soon found themselves facing another threat as well: the Eskimos who moved down into their territory, attracted by the colder climate. The inevitable culture clashes result, leading to violence which can only end in one way for the Greenlanders who cannot compete in this new environment with the nomadic, hunting culture of these other peoples.
At the same time, the Black Death in Europe caused the Europeans to briefly turn inward, exacerbating the dwindling of the trade connection which the Greenlanders found themselves to be more and more dependent on.
The story follows the coming of age of a young Greenland girl, Margaret, who is one of the last representatives of her modestly prosperous farm family. As she grows to womanhood she sees the steady & inexorable decline all about her of her way of life, while doing her best to hold things together. We see the Greenlanders feuding among themselves, as these Norse folk were wont to do in other venues, their conflicts & momentary triumphs in dealings with the Norewgian traders who visit them less & less often, their voyages to the North American coast (in search of valued timber & the long lost country of Vinland the Good), and finally their ill-fated contacts with the newly arriving Eskimos. In all, a good tale and true to its sources (both Icelandic saga and Eskimo legends which have come down to us from the indigenous peoples of Greenland who still recall their first encounters with the Europeans).
Although I prefer more action in my stories, this one was a powerful protrayal of a people and a time now lost to us beneath the ice and snows of Greenland -- even as the first tentative steps are taken by Europeans to cross the Atlantic in more southerly climes, with more lasting results. --- Stuart W. Mirsky