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Review: The Glass Woman - Caroline Lea

Genre: Literary Fiction Published: Michael Joseph, February 2019

My rating: 4.5/5 stars

Iceland, 1686. Rosa, a village girl from an impoverished family, is send off into a marriage of financial convenience, in order to keep her secure funds for her sick mother to survive the harsh winter. Rosa’s new found life does not come easy however. The small and isolated community of her new home is distrustful and unwelcoming to strangers. Rumors of witchcraft and misdeeds are mumbled around town, seemingly having Rosa’s new husband Jón at the center of them. What is Jón hiding? What’s in the attic that is so private Rosa is never allowed up there? And most importantly: what happened to Jón’s previous wife Anna, that nobody seems to dare to speak of.

I picked up The Glass Woman completely on a whim (not in the least part because the stunning cover drew my eye), but was captivated by the story as soon as I read the first chapter. Darkly atmospheric, suspenseful and quite emotional in the end: this was everything I could have asked for at the moment. Caroline Lea’s beautiful writing does an amazing job of creating an eerie atmosphere of isolation, unwelcomeness and suspicion that permeates the entire story. Lea’s use of islandic words and knowledge of the daily life at the time add to the immersion and are a testament to the authors research on the subject. Atmosphere and suspense alone account for about 3.5 to 4 out of the 4.5 stars I just gave this novel. Dumbly enough, as much as I enjoy and value that quality in books, I suck at describing it in a review, especially to someone who hasn’t read the novel yet. My best shot is: if you enjoyed (the atmosphere and feeling of) Burial Rituals or Rebecca, this might be for you.

Apart from the mystery and atmosphere, my favorite thing about The Glass Woman was the character of Rosa. She starts off as a scared and fragile little girl but really grows into newfound strength along the way. The same goes for the reluctant relationship between her and Jon, which grows stronger in a way, albeit not the way they anticipated.

Saying too much more about the characters or plot might spoil things that are best discovered on your own. I recommend you pick it up and do just that. A very beautiful novel (inside and out), and extremely under-read and underrated at the moment. Highly recommend.

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