by Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir
Publication date: December 6th 2022
It’s my stop on the “Animal Life” blog tour! Thanks very much to Pushkin Press who have kindly provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
If you’d like to learn more about this book, check out the other blogs on the tour and see what people have to say on Goodreads. If this sounds like your kind of thing, you’ll find the book on Kindle and paperback on Amazon UK.
From winner of the Nordic Council Literature Prize and the Icelandic Literary Prize, Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir, comes a dazzling novel about a family of midwives set in the run-up to Christmas in Iceland
In the days leading up to Christmas, Dómhildur delivers her 1,922nd baby. Beginnings and endings are her family trade; she comes from a long line of midwives on her mother’s side and a long line of undertakers on her father’s. She even lives in the apartment that she inherited from her grandaunt, a midwife with a unique reputation for her unconventional methods.
As a terrible storm races towards Reykjavík, Dómhildur discovers decades worth of letters and manuscripts hidden amongst her grandaunt’s clutter. Fielding calls from her anxious meteorologist sister and visits from her curious new neighbour, Dómhildur escapes into her grandaunt’s archive and discovers strange and beautiful reflections on birth, death, and human nature.
With her singular warmth and humor, in Animal Life Ólafsdóttir gives us a beguiling novel that comes direct from the depths of an Icelandic winter, full of hope for spring.
I’ve never read anything by this author before but I visited Iceland back in 2016 and have had a bit of a fascination for the country ever since so jumped at the chance to read something by an Icelandic author.
‘Animal Life’ is set in Iceland at Christmas, telling the story of a family of midwives. The main character Dómhildur is a midwife now and her mother’s side of the family have been working in the profession for many years. Her father’s family are undertakers so she really does have a clear view of both birth and death.
When she died, Dómhildur’s great aunt left her apartment to her and she’s now living there, amongst the excess of furniture and all sorts of life possessions of an elderly woman. In the deep Icelandic midwinter, Christmas is coming but being childless means that Dómhildur is signed up for a shift at work and she won’t be able to spend the holidays with her family. Instead she spends some time sorting through her great aunt’s letters and manuscripts, discovering things about her aunt that she never knew.
That’s about it in regards to plot. It’s quite a simple book and it’s a little bit random in places, providing reflections and views on many aspects of life including the start and end of it.
There were a lot of themes within and I must say that it did seem like a bit of a jumble at points, meandering through Dómhildur’s thoughts. I did enjoy this and a lot of the thoughts and discoveries were rich in meaning, but I think I might have preferred the read if it had focussed solely on the human life cycle rather than delving into other discussions that felt a little out of place.
The book is well written, poetic at times and there were some lovely quotes that I actually read aloud whilst I read. I don’t think this will be a story that will stick with me, but for a few hours I was fully immersed in it and I really couldn’t put it down.
If you’re looking for a reflective, pondering piece, I’d definitely recommend you give ‘Animal Life’ a try.
Overall rating: I enjoyed ‘Animal Life’ by Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir, a translated reflective piece about human life from start to finish. It was a bit random in places but poetic and lyrically told – 4 stars!
Don’t forget to check out the reviews of other blogs on the tour and if this sounds like your kind of book, support the author by picking up a copy!