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Paradise Reclaimed

3.78  ·  Rating details ·  506 ratings  ·  35 reviews
An idealistic Icelandic farmer journeys to Mormon Utah and back in search of paradise in this captivating novel by Nobel Prize—winner Halldor Laxness.
The quixotic hero of this long-lost classic is Steinar of Hlidar, a generous but very poor man who lives peacefully on a tiny farm in nineteenth-century Iceland with his wife and two adoring young children. But when he
Paperback, 304 pages
Published April 2nd 2002 by Vintage (first published 1960)
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Average rating 3.78  · 
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 ·  506 ratings  ·  35 reviews

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"Am I muddy at all?" asked the Mormon.
Steinar coiled the rope up carefully like the tidy man he was, and laid it on the tethering-block. Then he brushed the Mormon down a little.
"There is little I can say," said Steinar. "Criticizing others will not make me any bigger."

This is a very simply told and deceptively slight story. Once upon a time there lived in Iceland a man called Steinar, he gave an uncommonly fine horse to the King of Denmark and then travelled to that dista
Roger Brunyate

Halldór Laxness by Einar Hákonarson, 1984

I have never read anything by Halldór Laxness before, so I have no idea if this relatively late novel is typical of him—but it is, in a word, fabulous. I chose it at random, because I am trying to work through all the Nobel Laureates. I then put off reading it for years, thinking it a duty rather than pleasure. How wrong I was! I get no further in than page 5,
The Westman (Vestmannaaeyjar) islands are home to hardy Icelandic fishermen and farmers. In winter access to the mainland is often impossible. A favourite hobby is hunting for puffin eggs. So it is not surprising that in the second half of the 1800s some 400 citizens were attracted to Mormonism and migrated to Spanish Fork Utah.
From this unusual link, Laxness tells another tale of Icelandic folk. The all-too-naive Steinar of Steinahliðar who's trust in others is unsurpassable, his even more nai
Sep 20, 2011 rated it really liked it
Once again, Halldor Laxness shows such a warm sympathy for the human condition. The story of the simple,industrious, innately pure Steinar, unfolds with gentle irony yet sincere respect. The reader often experiences an almost stereoscopic vision that elicits contrasting responses.
Fundamentally, it chronicles Steinar's altruistic quest for a better life for himself and his family, first seeking some sort of vague benificence from the Danish king, and subsequently, making the pilgrimage to t
Jun 21, 2011 rated it really liked it
I have to admit that it was the title that made me read this book. "Paradise Reclaimed" suggested that it would be no ordinary kind of an adventure and it did! The story is absolutely beautiful and do not expect a regular kind of the novel. The book also provides an interesting insight into the history of Icelandic immigration and mormonism in the nineteenth century. The author does a magnificent job of transporting you into the right epoch and his prose is singing and enchanting. That said, I f ...more
Sep 25, 2007 rated it it was amazing
With the mountainous legacy of Icelandic sagas looming over him, Nobel-prize winning Icelandic author Halldor Laxness' writing is positioned in a very fertile artistic space. His prose is modern, aware of itself, and is heavily influenced by the complications and ambiguities of modern life. Particularly impressive are his powers of description. Laxness is able to place the reader in mid-19th century Iceland, geographically as well as psychologically, without spending any time away from the chara ...more
Nov 22, 2015 rated it liked it
I was unaware of the Iceland/Utah connection but on a recent trip to Iceland I learned that over 200 people from the Westmann Islands converted to Mormonism in the 19 th century and many left for Utah ending up around the community of Spanish Fork. So I was very interested when someone told me about this book by Iceland's Nobel laureate. The story captures very well Iceland and Mormonism at a certain period in time with humor, social commentary and two fine protagonists in the characters of the ...more
Mar 10, 2009 rated it it was amazing
What a funny little book! The recovered manuscript of Iceland's Nobel Prize winning Halldor Laxness in which he somehow manages to be both satrical and emotionally astute with a story as alien to the land of the fjords as "the back of the moon"--Mormonism. This book is a complete prize.
Nicki Markus
Mar 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I've been a huge fan of Halldór Laxness since I first read Independent People. I am now working my way through all his translated works, after which, I hope my Icelandic will improve enough to read his other stories. Paradise Reclaimed is just as wonderful as my previous reads. Laxness has a wonderful wry sense of humour that contrasts perfectly with the emotional depth in his stories. His tales always possess a keen sense of place, and his characters are always memorable and beautifully portray ...more
Adrian Stumpp
Aug 29, 2009 rated it really liked it
This book is not as good as Iceland's Bell, my favorite Laxness, but still worth reading. It's about an Icelandic farmer who gives his daughter's poney to the king of Denmark and then is sent by his indignant wife to retrieve it. Along the way he converts to Mormonism and voyages to Utah where he sends for his family to join him. A wonderful series of comedic misadventures delivered with a light touch and rendered in a rhythmic cadence that, stylistically, manages to be unassuming and yet rigoro ...more
May 08, 2017 rated it liked it
Independent People was amazing and I really liked The Fish Can Sing, both books made Laxness one of my favourite authors. But this one... I don't know if I missed something important, but it seemed meaningless to me. It has a really good beginning, although the main character seems too familiar, and slowly decays to the ending which is really bad. I feel like it was a project that progressively lost the author's interest.
David Peters
Oct 31, 2010 rated it liked it
After nursing this for almost two years - I read about a page a week on Sundays waiting for church to start - I took it with me on vacation and finished the last 200 or so pages in a day.

Very good and some good discussion points for a book group. It reminded me a little of a threshed out Alchemist; travel the world to only fing your Paradise right there at home.

It is also fun if you are a little familiar with both Iceland and Mormons, as I just happen to be.
Mar 03, 2011 rated it liked it
Written by Nobel prize winning Iceland author Halldor Laxness. The main character of the book leaves his family in rural Iceland for fundamentalist Mormon life in Utah. A satire true to Iceland and critical of religion.
Dec 14, 2010 rated it really liked it
The book is a wonderful story, however, I gave it 4 stars because the translation is not as good as Independent People or Iceland's Bell. You can tell, at times, that it is verbatim translation from Icelandic.
Jan 31, 2010 rated it really liked it
I had always wanted to read this highly regarded Icelandic author and this book was well written and slyly funny. Also learned about the community of Icelanders who settled in Utah and converted to Mormonism.
Kiera Beddes
Apr 20, 2010 rated it it was ok
It was interesting. It is a good understanding of Scandinavian immigrants and and interesting insight into the early Mormon doctrine. But it wasn't my favorite thing I have ever read.
Mar 04, 2010 rated it really liked it
Interesting book about Icelandic Mormon converts who immigrated to Spanish Fork, Utah.
Jun 05, 2007 rated it liked it
Iceland + Mormons should equal something amazing, but I was disappointed. The story is steady and understated, exactly the kind of story I don't like that much.
Nov 04, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Beautifully written and engaging story. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this one!
Mar 25, 2016 rated it really liked it
Excellent book. This is now the third book I've read by Halldor and I am very impressed. I've read too many classics that have put me to sleep, but his work is always unique either with his style or his characters. I really enjoyed the portrayal of the early Mormons - didn't think I would, but he surprised me. Plus, he is one of those authors who can simply put his finger right into the vein of what it is to be a little human in a very big world.

I will definitely be recommending this
May 04, 2013 rated it liked it
A very strange book that has a lot of charm. There's something very touching about the endurance of Halldor Laxness' characters in the stark world they inhabit.

One turn of phrase I liked:

"And when she smiled there were no teeth to be seen, just a maternal warmth that would, however, scarcely have appealed to anyone but infants; and perhaps men under sentence of death."
Jun 22, 2014 rated it really liked it
After visiting Iceland, images of spare farms below glacial cliffs and moss-covered lava fields filled my mind. The old turf houses came alive in this story that connects southern Iceland with Spanish Fork, Utah. It connects a moneyless 19th century Icelandic poverty with the visionary 19th-century territory governed by Brigham Young. I need to read more Laxness.
Nov 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Achingly good. Beautifully told with many layers of symbolism and narrative tautology (in a good way). Few books have left me quite so emotionally exhausted as this one.
Eric Hinkle
Sep 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
"Could I just ask you to tell me one small thing: were the stars present when she was buried?"

I'd give this 3.5 stars, perhaps, but much of the book is really fabulous, so much that it deserves an extra notch. It's classic Laxness, in the epic sort of gritty, determined way of Independent People, World Light, and Salka Valka, with a bit of the humor of Under the Glacier and a smidge of the absurdity of The Fish Can Sing or The Atom Station - but unlike those latter books, the story h
I enjoyed this book and can't believe I didn't rate it when I read it back in 2015!
We read it for our Nobel Book Club and I'm glad we did.
I ended up going to Iceland in 2017, and I still regret not going to Laxness's house. Next time!
Well, what I remember of this book was that there was a lot of implied rape or older men with younger women.
Also, it was amusing because he leaves Iceland and comes to Utah. Why?
I would read a second book by him, mostly because I am curious
Dec 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
Took me a bit to reach a conclusion about this book, but now I see it more. It does seem pointless at times but then I think it surmises the *what* is pointless or distracting in life. The writing was sort of hypnotizing as I was trying to unravel the point. Wise point.....that’s my conclusion. What do we chase?
Karin Anderson
Nov 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Utahns! Brace yourself for a hella joyful shock!
Apr 22, 2018 rated it it was ok
I wish I liked this book more, but I spent most of my time reading it being bored. I can see why people might like it but I don't think I have the right way of thinking to really enjoy it.
Sep 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Icelandic LDS crossover. Instant classic. Who knew?
Dan Plonsey
Jul 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
Paradise Reclaimed is in the second tier of Laxness books, well below Independent People, World Light and Iceland's Bell. Steinar has a family and a small farm, which he keeps meticulously, being an excellent stonemason and craftsman. We are told early on of Steinar, that like Bjartur of Independent People "as was the custom of all good farmers in Steinahlithar, he always talked to people of importance as he would to a brother or rather, perhaps, to a pauper of whom one is fond not so much for his worth as because one d ...more
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Born Halldór Guðjónsson, he adopted the surname Laxness in honour of Laxnes in Mosfellssveit where he grew up, his family having moved from Reyjavík in 1905. He published his first novel at the age of only 17, the beginning of a long literary career of more than 60 books, including novels, short stories, poetry, and plays. Confirmed a Catholic in 1923, he later moved away from religion and for a l ...more
“I am not at all impressed... at how far man's wisdom has managed to lead him; besides, it is not very great. What does surprise me, on the other hand, is how high their folly, their downright stupidity even, not to say their complete and utter blindness, has managed to raise them. Other things being equal, I prefer to follow the folly of man, for that has brought him farther than his wisdom.” 2 likes
“Anyone who doesn't know others doesn't know himself.” 2 likes
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