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3.16 of 5 stars 3.16  ·  rating details  ·  132 ratings  ·  19 reviews
Árið er 1420. Foreldrar Ragnfríðar og Þorkels, stöndugir bændur, ákveða giftingu þeirra í fyllingu tímans. En Ragnfríður verður barnshafandi 15 ára gömul eftir enskan sjómann, og Þorkell fer þá utan til náms í Svartaskóla í París. Þegar hann kemur heim verður hann handgenginn Hólabiskupi og hittir þar fyrir Ragnfríði, ráðskonu biskups, og son hennar. Hér er tekist á um völ...more
Paperback, 192 pages
Published 2002 by Mál og menning (first published 2000)
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I am really surprised I liked this one as much as I did, considering its average rating is only 3.20 at the time of writing this review. The novel brings to life a time when people spoke 'Nordic' rather than Icelandic and traded with the English. The novel highlights these often not known to many international relations. Looking at the author's background, I can guess the book is very well researched.

The author writes with confidence about Iceland's old very religious and patriarchal governance...more
A historical tale set in Iceland, featuring lords and ladies and a woman who is trying to make her way in a male-dominated world. Throw in some battles and the suggestion of magic, and you've got a cracking story. The tone and setting reminded me of Mary Stewart's Arthur books, which was a very good thing, indeed. I really enjoyed reading this.
Shawn Davis
Fourteen year old Ragna was a part of a well-landed family in medieval Iceland and had a bright future. But after sleeping with a stranded English sailor and bearing an illegitimate child, her future faded and she settled into mere existence.

After ten years, she is offered a position as housekeeper for the new English Bishop - just as the situation between the Icelanders and the English begins to boil over. Her position gives her more freedom and more purpose, as well as an education for her so...more
I won a copy of 'On the Cold Coasts' in a giveaway on Annabel Gaskell's blog. You can read her take on it here:

Annabel suggested it was a lot like a shorter version of Ken Follett's 'Pillars of the Earth'. That seem's quite an apt description to me. I suspect that the author's target audience was probably the middle market - that literary territory that lies between the unashamedly commercial and the (sometimes) unreadably serious. Like Follett's book the...more
Mixed feelings about this one. I'd have liked to have given this book 3.5 stars. But I'll err towards 4 simply because despite some shortcomings, this was a genuinely interesting book.
The plot isn't the simple boy-meets-girl, boy-loses-girl, boy-gets-girl-back stuff. The characters are deeply flawed, some more alive than others. Vilborg Davidsdóttir is a fine writer and it's a relief that there has been no attempt to foist 21st century morality onto medieval characters.
From this Brit reader's po...more
This is a novel with the synopsis of a romantic epic, a great big doorstopping thing, with heart-wrenching struggles and a happy ending. Fortunately it isn’t, being only three hundred odd pages, and the writer knows rather too much about the time she writes of to produce one. The grit and grind of life are always there. In the grandeur of a religious service some of the emotionally affected congregation blow “their noses with their fingers and on the backs of their hands.” A person is never far...more
This book was originally published in Iceland and was recently translated to English and released in the U.S. The translator did a very good job...I wouldn't have ever known that the original story wasn't written in English. The only difficult part of the book are the names of characters and the locations. But...oh, so very different and interesting!

This story is set in 15th Century Iceland and flows easily although sometimes the topic is a bit violent and disturbing. We follow Ragna and her son...more
It is a rare moment that I am completely and utterly disappointed by a book at the level that I was with "On the Cold Coasts." Lacking description and character development as well as a decent plot, this book leaves the reader ice cold by the end. I was repulsed by the way Ragna was so utterly wrapped up in Thorkell and she how just floated along doing the will of others. She submits herself to a random English sailor for no good reason and then ends up taking care of the Bishop's house and givi...more
I don't often read historical novels, so had nothing to compare it to. I mostly enjoyed it, I think, for the details of life in mediaeval Iceland. I also liked the female protagonist, living in what was very much a man's world and trying to find her own way through it, with very limited success. I found the power struggles with the English, who played the role of bad guys, and the curious and complex role of the Roman Catholic Church (or a version of it) very interesting. This would make a good...more
Robin Edman

This should have been a much better read than it was. The elements of epic are there, but the story is instead reduced to a rather tawdry little affair between a beaten down woman and an abusive priest. The political intrigue mills about a great deal but lacks direction. So, while the book did succeed in catching my interest, it never rewarded my attention with anything that felt like a satisfying outcome. So I feel a little foolish for having been drawn in. But I still say that this book has s...more
Lisa J.olsen
This is an interesting historical fiction novel set in Iceland when women had little freedom to make their own choices and decide their fate. This is translated from Icelandic and follows Ragna through a difficult path to adulthood. She becomes pregnant at the age of 13, but is unable to marry due to the threat of death is she has any more children. She struggles to live with her parents and finally live on her own by working for the Bishop in her area. Her intended returns later in her life to...more
On the Cold Coasts was alright. It didn't blow my mind or leave me wanting more, but I liked it enough to keep reading it. The setting (Iceland) was one I'm not very familiar with, so that was an interesting aspect of the story, in addition to the history. Ragna was a very frustrating character, with all of her bad decisions and lack of self worth. Considering the rights of women and how they were treated in this novel, it isn't surprising, though - just sad.
Thirty pages in, and I'm giving up. A near-death rescue from a shipwreck that morphs into a lovemaking scene within two paragraphs, cliched language ("in the blink of an eye" twice so far), a plot that rambles back and forth in time... Here I was hoping for a romantic epic set in 15th-century Iceland, but this is not good. I'm not giving this a rating because it was a DNF. Of all the novels to have translated into English, I wonder why this one?
I really liked this. It is a very realistic historical novel - girls get pregnant, they have to cope, life goes on. Everyday life in 15th Century Iceland, and the intrigues between state and church, who you can, or cannot trade with, form a backdrop to a book which is centred around a female character who is strong in her own ways and with whom I had a great deal of both sympathy and empathy.

Since visiting Iceland a year and a half ago, I have been reading as much literature from Iceland as I can find. This tiny country has produced some very good writers. This story was interesting and well-written. I found myself, nonetheless, disappointed at the end, because it was finished so soon. It needed to be a bigger story.
I enjoyed the experience of 15th century Iceland. This was a compelling story of a young woman struggling to deal with her role in a male-dominated society.
Interesting tale, but something gets lost in the translation to English. Also the ending seems unfinished......
Sonia Crites
Overall I thought the book was ok. It drags in a few areas and for me Ragna was hard to relate to.
Dagbjört Ásgeirsdóttir
A historical novel, one of my favourites.
Rosetta marked it as to-read
Sep 11, 2014
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Vilborg's first novel, Við Urðarbrunn, was published in 1993 and a sequel, Nornadómur, in 1994. Við Urðarbrunn was awarded by the Icelandic department of IBBY (International Board on Books for Young People) in 1994, and a year later, the sequel, Nornadómur, received the Reykjavík School Council Children's Book Award. Both novels have enjoyed a considerable popularity among teenagers and have been...more
More about Vilborg Davíðsdóttir...
Korku saga Auður Við urðarbrunn Hrafninn Nornadómur

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