Sunday, 9 March 2014

Butterflies in November: Audur Ava Olafsdottir (Iceland)

After a day of being dumped - twice - and accidentally killing a goose, the narrator begins to dream of tropical holidays far away from the chaos of her current life. instead, she finds her plans wrecked by her best friend's deaf-mute son, thrust into her reluctant care. But when a shared lottery ticket nets the two of them over 40 million kroner, she and the boy head off on a road trip across iceland, taking in cucumber-farming hotels, dead sheep, and any number of her exes desperate for another chance. Blackly comic and uniquely moving, Butterflies in November is an extraordinary, hilarious tale of motherhood, relationships and the legacy of life's mistakes.

Given my love of Iceland, and all things Icelandic, it seems fitting to start 2014 off with an Icelandic book. This one had been on my wish list for a while, having read about it in the airline magazine after my most recent trip to Iceland in October last year, so when I saw it was reduced to 99p I downloaded a copy straight away.

The narrator of the book is a thirty three year old woman with a gift for languages. When we meet her at the beginning of the book, she has been recently dumped by both her lover and her husband. Her husband it turns out has also been having an affair, and is expecting a child with his other woman. When the narrator's pregnant best friend and already single mother Audur is on the way over to help our heroine commiserate, she slips and falls on the ice, necessitating a stay in hospital. Our heroine is then given the task of caring for Audur's five year old deaf-mute son. Following, not one but two lottery wins - one monetary, one a prefabricated summer bungalow in the east of Iceland, where the narrator spent her childhood, the two of them set off on a road trip around Iceland's coast.

The remainder of the book is about this road trip and the things that the two of them encounter - including yes, a cucumber farm, a dead sheep and several exes. During the journey our heroine learns what motherhood really means and makes some life changing decisions.

This is somewhat quirky book that would appeal mostly to other women, due to the motherhood theme and will no doubt have a sizeable audience after the success of her previous work. For me though the book seemed a bit lack lustre and lacked that certain spark. Icelandic is a difficult language to learn, so maybe some of the book was simply lost in translation. It is by no means the best book I have read, but no means the worst either, so I would give this an average rating of 3 stars.

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