In 1950's Reykjavik, the barracks left after the war became occupied by homeless people - farmers and fishermen from rural Iceland who had flooded the capital in search of a better life. The American forces were providing employment and possibilities not seen during the lean years. These 'barracks people' were outside respectable society and it is here at 'Camp Thule' that Karason's lively novel is set.
At first I was a trifle awed by the long list of characters at the front of the book, but found it useful to check up now and again as I went along. It is a very vivid, episodic tale about the various characters inhabiting Camp Thule, centering around Lina and Tommi and their ever-growing family of children, grandchildren, and various additions and hangers-on. To say they live an unconventional life would be an understatement. Lina is a fortune teller with an inconsistent temper, wheras Tommi is a sypmapthetic man who tries to help channel some of the youngsters' destructive energies by establishing the Kari Football Club. Gogo, Lina's daughter who already has several children by different men eventually marries an American, and the family becomes less poverty stricken. (Much of this is hilarious). Gogo's sons Baddi and Danni go to stay in America for a while, and return mad about Elvis. In the meanwhile we encounter the humorous, eccentric, tragic and surreal vicissitudes of many of Lina and Tommi's neighbours. The consumption of alcohol plays quite a part. It's an unusual novel, sort of snaps you awake with its particular irony and zestful storytelling, and quirky humanity.
This book shows to great detail the life of the poor people in Iceland before and around WWII. With it's unforgettable characters it is a great read. It is both funny and tragic but often surreal in the crazy characters, like Karólína, the grandmother who watches over all that live in her house. Definetly one of my favorites