Olafsson's lean and compelling short stories are
quite addictively good and, on the face of it, a shoo-in for
Valentines. But a note of warning before you rush out to buy
Valentines for a loved one - the title is ironic, Olafsson's
stories are not of warm and nurturing relationships but of
angst-ridden emotionally damaged people brought down by a moment
of poor judgment in the past or present. His style is dry,
stripped of verbiage but nevertheless rich in nuance.
Most of the stories hinge on a single misstep in an otherwise healthy marriage, but that misstep is like a flaw in a slab of marble that can lie hidden for years, waiting for the moment when the stone is tapped at the wrong angle causing the entire sheet to fracture. Sometimes we witness this fracture taking root, knowing that it is just a matter of time until the crack becomes visible, other times the flaw is revealed as the final twist to the story. The outcomes are not universally dismal for Olafsson's protagonists; some receive their just desserts, sometimes there is a tragic reversal of fortune, but occasionally, just to keep us on our toes, a story ends on a potentially happy note with disaster possibly averted, or at least delayed, and happiness not inconceivably around the corner (but never quite in sight).
Absolution (1994) Spanning a boyhood in Iceland to the Nazi occupation of Denmark to modern-day Manhattan, Absolution plumbs the darkest corners of a sinister mind and a wounded heart.
Journey Home (2000): Disa, a character reminiscent of the butler in Kazua Ishiguro's The Remains of the Day, is a successful, attentive restaurateur and proprietress at an English country hotel. When she learns she has but a year to live, the news serves as the catalyst for a final trip home to Iceland -- a journey she has postponed for 20 years.
Walking Into The Night (2003): The life story of William Randolph Hearsts fictional butler.
Valentines (2007, stories)
Interesting to note: According to the Iceland Review, the movie of Journey Home is back on track with filming expected to start in Iceland in April 2008. An earlier project, directed by Liv Ullman, was shelved in 2006 due to disagreements over the screenplay.
This review was originally published in February 2007, and has been updated for the January 2008 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.
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