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An ARC copy of this book was provided to me in exchange for my honest review. All thoughts are my own.
I want to thank Pushkin Press for contacting me and sharing this book with me.
A perfectly reflective novel for this time of year. From an award winning author – prepare to be moved into a reflective state with this one. The story follows Dómhildur who is a mid-wife from a long line of mid-wives in her family. She was extremely close to her grand aunt, who was also a mid-wife, and still lives her home after she passed away. Nothing in the house has really been changed in decades and Dómhildur reflects on all the things inside that belonged to her Aunt. Including a desk filled with articles her Aunt wrote about animal preservation, letters from a dear friend and fellow mid-wife.
“‘Unlike mankind, Dyja dear,’ said my grandaunt, ‘plants turn towards the light.’ That was one field of comparison, man and plants, the other field was man and animals.”Animal Life
What I loved so much about this book was how every little interaction and memory that Dómhildur shares with us, the reader, carries her forward on her own path of understand and ultimately ties into the main themes of this book which are life and death. These themes are represented in a multitude of ways including the complimentary family trades of bringing babies into the world and the other part of the family that runs a mortuary. We also see these themes represnted in the Aunt’s articles about animal lives and deaths being brought on by humans and again we see this theme in the memories of Dómhildur’s Aunt and her religious ferocity about the lightness and darkness of the world.
“Some people bring light with them, Dyja dear. Others try to drag you into their darkness. They’re not necessarily able to control it.”Animal Life
Deeply reflective, moving and thought-provoking as we enter the final days of the Christmas season leading up to the remembrance of Christ’s birth and ultimate death that is represented in the themes on every page of this novel.
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From winner of the Nordic Council Literature Prize and the Icelandic Literature Prize, Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir, comes a dazzling novel about a family of midwives set in the run-up to Christmas in Iceland
In the days leading up to Christmas, Dómhildur delivers her 1,922nd baby. Beginnings and endings are her family trade; she comes from a long line of midwives on her mother’s side and a long line of undertakers on her father’s. She even lives in the apartment that she inherited from her grandaunt, a midwife with a unique reputation for her unconventional methods.
As a terrible storm races towards Reykjavik, Dómhildur discovers decades worth of letters and manuscripts hidden amongst her grandaunt’s clutter. Fielding calls from her anxious meteorologist sister and visits from her curious new neighbour, Dómhildur escapes into her grandaunt’s archive and discovers strange and beautiful reflections on birth, death and human nature.
With her singular warmth and humor, in Animal Life Ólafsdóttir gives us a beguiling novel that comes direct from the depths of an Icelandic winter, full of hope for spring.
About the Author
Audur Ava Ólafsdóttir was born in Iceland in 1958, studied art history in Paris, and has lectured in history of art at the University of Iceland. She is the author of six novels, a collection of poetry and four plays that have been performed at the National Theatre in Iceland and at the Reykjavik City Theatre. She also writes the lyrics for the Icelandic performance pop band Milkywhale. Her novels have been translated into over 25 languages and among them are The Greenhouse and Butterflies in November. Her novel The Greenhouse was translated into twenty-two languages. She currently lives and works in Reykjavik.