Volcanic Chill


In Reykjavik in the 1960s, Hekla, named for a volcano, is driven to write. But she hasn’t told her lover the poet that she writes and so she can’t get up from his bed to record the sentences that come to her in the night.

I try to fix my gaze on the moon through the skylight, I ask the sentences to leave, I ask them to stay, I need to get up to write, so they won’t vanish.

Hekla is a chilly presence on the page, almost affectless in the way she declares and describes. Very occasionally, she laughs, or another character reports that she was seen laughing. I felt as I read that her sentences were clipped but now, flipping back through the pages, I see that the point isn’t that they’re short sentences but rather that they’re wonders of pruning. Miss Iceland is fiction by a poet and it shows, in the best way.

There’s much to wonder at: dialogue, characters (few, odd, perfect), the landscape and weather, her chapter headings, the letters by other people that carry Hekla and the story. Exhilaratingly for writers and readers, historical fiction can be this way. Whoever guided me towards this novel, thank you.

#thebookonmytable Brief book reviews, notes to self and others, tendency to enthuse.