Review: From the Mouth of the Whale, Sjón

Rating: 1(.5) out of 5

This was absolutely dreadful. The world definitely does not need more stream-of-consciousness and coating it under historical fiction does not make the story any more readable. There is one silver lining in this book — and that is that approximately the middle third seemed to cover ground that the author was not interested in, so he described it in succinct and clear prose. Regrettably, once this episode in Copenhagen passes we are back to the interminable nonsense.

Now, perhaps an Icelander will find some connection between the ten-page long paragraphs, their home nature, and what is being described. Perhaps the translator did a poor job. It is possible — but unlikely though I don’t doubt that the original language would have had the “lyrical stream of consciousness” working better (better but still bad).

After noting all of the above, what the author did manage is to build my interest in Iceland and especially Icelandic history. It is quite easy to think that as the island does not feature in a strong way in any of the wider European stories, that it would have been a peaceful and calm community. Sjón manages to remove that notion from any (very very brave) reader’s mind.

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