cover image Miss Iceland

Miss Iceland

Audur Ava Ólafsdóttir, trans. from the Icelandic by Brian Fitzgibbon. Black Cat, $16 trade paper (256p) ISBN 978-0-8021-4923-7

Ólafsdóttir’s graceful and quiet tale of feminism, alienation, and artistic expression (after Hotel Silence) centers around Hekla, a young Icelandic woman who wants to become a writer in a male-dominated literary world. In 1963, Hekla leaves rural Dalir on a coach bound for Reykjavik, reading Ulysses and writing in her notebook. Upon her arrival, a man tries to recruit her to join the Miss Iceland competition; she refuses, and also keeps her literary aspirations to herself. Hekla waitresses at Hotel Borg during the day, where the beauty pageant recruiter reappears and continues to pressure her, and writes at night in an apartment she shares with her gay best friend, Jón John, a fisherman. Hekla’s kinship with Jón John grows from their shared feelings of alienation: hers from the Reykjavik poet café crowd and his from the masculine atmosphere on a recent trawler expedition. She visits another friend, Ísey, who writes obsessively in her diary and struggles with being a full-time housewife and mother. After a romance with a poet is spoiled by his jealousy over her talent, Hekla turns to her friends to envision a future of fulfillment. Ólafsdóttir tenderly explores how these authentic characters help each other overcome their fears and doubts. This winning tale of friendship and self-fulfillment will inspire readers. (June)