Friday, January 13, 2012

Review of A Woman in the Polar Night

I'm on Goodreads (Are you?) but I never blog my reviews. I don't know why not. But I love this book. Definitely one of the best and most surprising books I read last year. So I thought I'd splash it in this space, too. I wrote the review mid-read, but I still felt wonderful about it when I finished. In fact, I really really loved the ending. Quiet, deep close to a quiet, deep book. It never went out of print in Germany. I'm on a personal quest to revive stateside interest in it. Read it! Read it!


Why had I not heard of this book? I saw it in Tin House, in a feature on forgotten great books, and was skeptical, but got it from the library.

From sentence one, I've been hooked. It's nonfiction, written in the 1950s by an Austrian woman who followed her husband to the Arctic to stay with him in a hunting hut for a year. Her descriptions of travel and the scenery are stunning without being melodramatic. And she's causing me to have the deepest thoughts I've probably ever had on what it means to do housework, to be a housewife, a role she steps into with humor (cleaning bearded seal entrails from your doorstep, anyone?) and a stunning and almost unbelievable acceptance. Don't get me wrong: it's not a book that's ABOUT housewifery (yes, that's a word, says me), but that's what it's causing me to think of: the roles we step into, the roles we want or think we want to step into, and what it means when you strip away absolutely everything else and focus those roles and the attendant relationships down to a 10 X 10 hut in the middle of nowhere.

The writing is gorgeous. (Even my husband, who is the pickiest man alive when it comes to books, read the first few pages (I wouldn't let him have it for longer than that ...) and said it was clearly very good writing and made for good reading.) It feels like it's been awhile since I've had a book I longed for all through the day while I attended to less charming tasks, but this is a book like that. I want to stop people on the street and tell them to read it--it's that good, so far.


ginger said...

Thanks for the review Deja. I was just thinking that I needed to read a new book.

On the topic of housewifery and relationships...have you read this before?

belann said...

Beautiful memoir. Enjoyed reading about this brave woman. Made me realize I would never do that, but I love the thought of being able to.

Meeshab said...

I want to read it!