Tuesday, April 28, 2009

REVIEW: The Tricking of Freya, by Christina Sunley

The Tricking of Freya, by Christina Sunley. Published 2009 by St. Martin's Press. Literary Fiction.


The Tricking of Freya, Christina Sunley's accomplished debut, is an addictive mixture of coming-of-age, family secrets and glimpse into the culture and history of Iceland. It was a treat from start to finish.

Sunley tells the story of Freya Morris, a young woman whose life with her mother, Anna, in a suburb of Connecticut, is punctuated by annual visits to the Canadian resort town of Gimli, the center of Canada's Icelandic immigrant population. It's also home to her mother's family and friends, chief among them her eccentric sister Birdie and her mother, Sigga. Birdie, a moody, brilliant and mischievous beauty whom nobody trusts, dotes on Freya and tries to instill in her a love for her Icelandic heritage. Freya alternately idolizes and fears her, so glamorous and yet so dangerous, so loving and yet so mercurial. Anna becomes disabled following an accident when Freya is little for which Freya will punish herself for years to come. She will also punish herself for the after-effects of a trip to Iceland with Birdie. Years go by; Anna passes away, and Freya grows up. Returning to Gimli for Sigga's one-hundredth birthday, Freya overhears an echo of a family secret and returns to Iceland to figure it out.

More than that I don't want to tell you. I really admire Sunley's writing in general; the tone is light but The Tricking of Freya is not a light read- Sunley covers some pretty dark territory concerning shame, mental illness and self-recrimination, and manages to do so in a way that seemed both psychologically real and gripping. There are some really harrowing passages but I never wanted to put the book down.

On the contrary, I had a great time reading The Tricking of Freya. I love the combination of a strong plot and character-driven drama, and Freya's first-person narration, with her own tricks and deceptions, works beautifully to bring the story to life. Sunley also delivers a lot of fascinating detail about Icelandic history, culture and language, all of which was new to me and added a lot of richness to the novel. Sunley makes heavy use of foreshadowing throughout the novel and although I started predicting the big twist early on, it still came as a surprise that brought tears to my eyes. There are actually lots of little twists here and there and Sunley fits them together skillfully in her finely-crafted, beguiling debut. And now I want to go to Iceland!

Rating: BUY

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for review from the publisher.

13 comments:

candyschultz said...

Oh oh. This sounds very good and I've never read anything set in Iceland. I wish I was near your library. I might not have to purchase so many books.

Amy said...

Marie--Thanks for stopping by my blog! I always love finding a new book blog to read. I'll be checking in!!!

-Amy
(Life by Candlelight)

Zibilee said...

I actually have not read many books set in Iceland. One of the things that makes me curious about this book is that you mention that it deals with mental-illness. I really interested in that subject and I really like to explore books that deal with that theme. Thanks for the heads up on this!

caite said...

I will have to check this one out. I love books set in Iceland...not sure why...and I love that cover.

Wendy said...

I have this book - and your review makes me want to read it sooner rather than later.

naida said...

this does sound like a good book, great review. its always great when an author includes vivid details in the book.
http://thebookworm07.blogspot.com/

avisannschild said...

Great review, Marie! I just mentioned it in my Friday Finds post!

booktrash said...

I've noted this down after seeing another review of it, and I'm lucky enough to be going to Iceland in about a fortnight as well, but unfortuantely there's no way I'll get hold of this between then and now. Still looking forward to both the trip and the book, though!

Anna said...

I haven't heard of this one. It sounds like a great read. Since I grew up in CT, I think I'd like to read this one.

--Anna
Diary of an Eccentric

S. Krishna said...

This book really sounds incredible, I'm adding it to my TBR list right now!

Christina said...

Marie, thank you for this wonderful review! It's also really rewarding to see the interest you've created in my book from visitors to your blog.

I'm busy working on ideas for the next one...

Best,

Christina Sunley

Marie said...

Christina, thank you so much for taking the time to comment here! I really appreciate it!

Book Dilettante aka Book Bird Dog said...

It's so great to read different reviews of the same book! Here's my take on the book. Hope you will visit at Tricking of Freya: interview and review.