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The Far Traveler: Voyages of a Viking Woman

3.73  ·  Rating details ·  729 ratings  ·  180 reviews
Five hundred years before Columbus, a Viking woman named Gudrid sailed off the edge of the known world. She landed in the New World and lived there for three years, giving birth to a baby before sailing home. Or so the Icelandic sagas say. Even after archaeologists found a Viking longhouse in Newfoundland, no one believed that the details of Gudrid’s story were true. Then, ...more
Hardcover, 306 pages
Published October 9th 2007 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (first published 2007)
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3.73  · 
Rating details
 ·  729 ratings  ·  180 reviews

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Apr 16, 2014 rated it really liked it
I was drawn to this book after reading The Sea Road by Margaret Elphinstone, a wonderful fictional account of the life of Gudrid. I wanted to know more about this remarkable woman. The Far Traveller explores the archaeological and literary evidence of the lives of late 10th, early 11th century Icelanders. It follows Eirik the Red and then Gudrid to Greenland and from there to Vinland to discover what evidence there is of Viking settlements, where they were and what other peoples they may have me ...more
The Idle Woman
This enjoyable book follows Brown's pursuit of the archaeological and literary evidence for the life of Gudrid the Far-Traveller, a remarkable Viking woman who lived in Greenland and Iceland around the year 1000. She was not only one of the first (albeit temporary) settlers in Vinland, on the coast of Newfoundland, but she embarked on an equally adventurous pilgrimage to Rome in later life. Using her life as a lens, Brown examines the Icelandic sagas for evidence of how men and women established ...more
This was an interesting book, but it was also all over the place. I felt like the author had done all this research on Vikings and archeology and Icelandic sagas and didn't really know how to put it all together into a readable book that tells one cohesive story.

For instance, the book is supposed to be about Gudrid, this amazing Far Traveler who journeyed to the New World and visited Rome and such, but you only get snippets about her until over halfway through the book. The author spends a lot
At times fascinating, and at times bone-dry, this book managed to frustrate me by being overly scattered, yet also piqued my interest for more Nordic sagas and the like. The titular Viking Woman, Gudrid the Far Traveler, is mentioned in only two sagas (in one of which she apparently sails to Vineland--North America). Unfortunately, there is very little other evidence that she existed, so the author speculates about her life, then links this bare framework to detailed examinations of what life mu ...more
This book is bizarre in that the premise is good, the writing is good, but it took me nearly six months to finish which should have been a few days, maybe a week of solid reading. The Far Traveler become my albatross and I couldn't shake myself from its grip. What went wrong?

Simply put, this was not so much the tale of Gudrid rather Gudrid was the weak link for Brown to explore life and time of 10th century Iceland from a woman's perspective. By this I mean you'll be dozens and dozens of pages i
A book about an ancient woman traveling all over the globe in a time when women tended to stay home and care for home and hearth?! Sign me up!

Unfortunately, this book couldn't really deliver. The blurb makes it sound like the book will focus on Gudrid the Far-Traveler, and yet there isn't a whole lot about her. It's much more a book about what life was like for Vikings, and how they settled Iceland and Greenland and traveled to North America, and theories on why they abandoned their Vinland set
Sandra D
Nov 11, 2007 rated it really liked it
I would've rated this one five stars if the author had included some maps and photos. I was pulling up Google Maps every few pages trying to locate all the different places being described, while also searching for photos of knarrs and longhouses and spindle whorls.

Still, this book was a really fun read. It's not much of a biography since there aren't enough verifiable details of Gudrid's life available to fully tell her story. Instead, the author delivers a lot of interesting info, seasoned wit
May 24, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
I suspect authors like these are the bane of archaeologists.
Archaeologist: "oh hey, we found a turf house from x period. Neat!"
Author: "this particular character from the sagas lived here. This was her weaving room!"
Archaeologist: "ok, sure. Just get out if my test pit, alright?"

But it was a nice little look at how a woman like Gudrid might have lived. Also, Viking went ape shit over wood panelling, who knew? I think they'd have liked the 1970s when it came to interior decorating (why yes, thi
Dec 06, 2017 rated it it was ok
It's rare for me, but I am DNF'ing this historical book.

I got a little over half way through it when I thought, what the hell is going on? This book was all over the place. The author discussed, at length, Leif Erikson, Erik the Red, how Viking ships were made, what she thought of the Icelandic stories, what her students thought and wrote about, folk tales and sagas, etc., and hardly about the woman I actually wanted to read about, Gudrid, the Far Traveler.

While most of it was interesting, I fou
May 22, 2008 rated it really liked it
Brown's book is not really a story of a Viking woman as much as it's a weaving together of the story of Viking culture from 800 ACE to 1100 ACE, which she achieves by the strenuous act of pulling together archeological evidence on the one hand and textual evidence from the sagas on the other hand. You can see her tug hard to make these two types of scholarship work together. In fact, this book's methodology interests me as much as the subject matter itself.

While focusing mainly on three generat
Nov 10, 2018 rated it liked it
This was a really interesting book but like other readers here I thought it was a bit too much all over the place. I speed read the end because there was just so much information and I was thinking "...and?". Maybe the title should have been something else since I kept forgetting she was talking about Gudrid. "Gudrid, who's that? Oh THAT Gudrid...ok...?"
The most interesting part for me was the part about why the Europeans left Greenland which is a bit of a mystery and there are several theories
Jun 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in2017
This has swiftly become my favorite book of the year and oh, how I envy Ms. Brown who spends her summers in Iceland with archaeologists, learning more about the Vikings.
What a joy it was to find a biography of Gudrid, to learn of her two marriages, her travels, to trace her ancestors by their stories in the sagas. This was such an independent, enterprising woman that she took a boat, foodstuffs and her servants to travel alone to Greenland. There she eventually built a longhouse; the author exp
Jerri Brissette
Sep 12, 2009 rated it liked it
Based more on old wives' tales rather than fact, this is still a nice read. And, as the book itself points out (or rather the author), there really is little more than lore to present the history of those great (though extremely violent) explorers. The author very smoothly gives two versions of the tale of this Viking woman, leaving it totally up to you to decide which version you prefer. I was hooked by the title as I love reading about unusual, adventurous women in history.
Oct 31, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, owned-books
I really enjoyed this book. It's worth reading, and shows something about the Viking traditions as regards women. They had power, and authority where deserved, equal partners in that society. Rant over.

The story is a compelling re-telling of the voyages to continental north america from the viewpoint of woman who participated in the voyages, indeed owned a ship involved.Drawn from cross-referencing several sagas, and records from Norway and Iceland.
Amalia Carosella
Oct 07, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a fantastic and colorful, rich overview of the viking age, through the lens of Gudrid's life and the struggle to sift the fact from the fiction of the sagas. Wonderfully readable, without any pretension, and definitely worth picking up as a window into both the history and the Vinland Sagas.
Dec 03, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: owned
I read this immediately after reading The Sea Road by Margaret Elphinstone. I have not read the Icelandic sagas themselves, but it was really cool to see how much Elphinstone's novel matched up with the sagas/history.

I would caution that this book is less about Gudrid and more about the Viking age in general, specifically in Iceland and Greenland. I liked it, it was informative, engaging, interesting, etc. However it tended to jump around a bit and some bits were too technical (I did end up skip
Margaret Sankey
Jun 23, 2015 rated it really liked it
Much like Mayor's book I read a couple of days ago, this is a masterful reconstruction of a much maligned as fiction and neglected account by a Viking woman who, it turns out, gave us a very realistic narrative of settling in the North Atlantic, surviving long-distance voyages and even completing a pilgrimage to Rome in later life. Archaeology, computer mapping, oceanography and climate studies buoy up her story as being accurate and rich with details and clues about why Vikings flourished in so ...more
And from Bhutan, I went to Iceland! I knew about the first Vikings on the American continent, but not about Gudrid. This was a fascinating study, touching about archeology, and all kinds of sciences allowing us to figure out who lived where when. It showed a very fierce and powerful woman, her trips and what her daily life could have been.
If you prefer a historical subject on the topic, focused on Gudrid, I have just heard about The Sea Road, by Margaret Elphinstone.

original post:
Jun 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: vikings, non-fiction
An absolutely fascinating detective-type story, digging into the Icelandic sagas and the Icelandic soil, for answers and hints that might lead us to reconstructing both the life of Gudrid and the lives of the Vikings that dared to live out on the edge of their world. It is written as following her investigations, along with the archaeologists, into the above-mentioned Icelandic site, and interweaves what they find and hypothesise, with what we know, from the sagas, of Gudrid The Far Traveller. W ...more
Lucy Pollard-Gott
Feb 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: middle-ages
In this book, Nancy Marie Brown combines genres (social history, practical archaeology, medieval literature, geography) with inspiring skill, binding them with her storytelling ability and love of learning about all the ramifications of her subject. It is part detective work, to figure out from the available sources the fairest outlines of the life of Gudrid Thorbjarnsdottir, the daughter-in-law of Eirik the Red, who was born in Iceland, traveled to Greenland, explored "Vinland" (with a differen ...more
Mar 16, 2012 rated it liked it
I requested this after it crossed the desk on its way to someone else, and I’m rather glad I did. I’m a passing scholar of Viking history, through hardly to the standards of some of my friends, so I wasn’t entirely sure what to make of a reconstructed life by a writer of, apparently, no particularly historical training. Fortunately, Brown has done her research and her fieldwork, and the result is a brilliantly written and (so far as I can tell) accurate account of the life of Guidrid Far-Travel ...more
Christopher Litsinger
I personally found this book to be tremendously interesting, but not very well written. My biggest complaint is that for a book that stretches very little evidence to fit the story the author is trying to tell, she spends almost an entire chapter dissecting a book by Jared Diamond (that I've never read) as drawing false conclusions from too little evidence. I'm not sure of the reason for this, perhaps to sell books, or perhaps to fit in something into the book that had been written previously (t ...more
Nov 18, 2007 rated it really liked it
This book is amazingly well researched and offers a fascinating introduction to Viking culture and history. It explores the lives of the Vikings through the lens of Gudrid, who both archeaology and the Icelandic sagas tells us explored and lived for a short period in the New World--Vinland--and who we think was the first European woman to give birth in North America. As other reviewers have commented, this book suffers from lack of photos or diagrams of many of the longhouses, artifacts, and shi ...more
Dec 06, 2007 rated it really liked it
This book is great reading and very informative for anyone interested in the medieval world, Vikings, the settlements of Iceland and Greenland by the Vikings, early Viking voyages to North America and the Icelandic sagas. Through the life of a single woman (who does figure in two sagas), Brown explores all of these topics and throws in a bit of archeology lore and trade craft to boot. A great read.
Cynthia Egbert
Jul 09, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: prospector-loans
I am not even sure what to say about this book. I gained some new insights in history but it was so all over the place and took so many liberties and made so many leaps to make the archeological finds fit into the saga that it felt forced.
Heather Gilbert
Dec 15, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
Loved this book, especially since I wrote a historical fiction novel about the woman she researched! Gudrid rocks!
Sum Doood
Jul 31, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Anyone interested in the history of humans in the northern hemisphere should read this.
Marcus Salerno
Jun 14, 2017 rated it it was ok
This book is supposed to tell a story about Gudrids voyages according to the title and the abstract, but the author constantly looses focus. One third of the abstract actually tells you about the american settlement, but America only slightly gets mentioned in the book. Instead of focusing on these amazing voyages the author mainly tells us about other things like boat building, how to make clothes and textiles out of wool and her own experiences as a researcher, all in detail. I would presume t ...more
Tracy Rowan
I've been reading this book since the end of March, and I don't really know why I kept avoiding it all these months. I just felt that it was an interesting premise that somehow faltered. There was nothing wrong with the scholarship, or the writing, but it felt disjointed to me as if the author simply didn't know how to construct a narrative.

The story of Gudrid should have been riveting. This is a woman who traveled from her Scandinavian home to Greenland, Iceland, and the area of the Americas kn
Sarah -  All The Book Blog Names Are Taken
Kind of all over the place, and I'm still left wondering so much about Gudrid. Like, how did the author come to certain conclusions? Full review to come, possibly 3 stars.


Rating: 3.5 Stars

Gah! I really wanted to love this one, because if you have been reading my blog, or know me at all, you know that bad-ass women are among my most favorite topics - hellooooo Boudicca and El
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Nancy Marie Brown is the author of one young adult novel and six general interest books: Ivory Vikings (2015), The Saga of Gudrid the Far-Traveler (2015), Song of the Vikings (2012), The Abacus and the Cross (2010), The Far Traveler (2007), Mendel in the Kitchen (2004), and A Good Horse Has No Color (2001).

She writes about Iceland and Vikings, science and sagas. Her books combine extremes: mediev
“Twenty years before, she had sailed west from Greenland off the edge of the known world. She was nineteen, newly wed for the second or third time and pregnant for the first. With her were her husband, Thorfinn Karlsefni, and three Viking crews in clinker-built boats. They were sailing to Vinland, a fabulous land that Leif Eiriksson, son of Greenland’s founder Eirik the Red, had washed up on a few years back, when he was caught in a summer storm, sailing west across the icy North Atlantic from Norway. It was Gudrid’s second attempt to get to Vinland. She meant to settle in this New World. At” 1 likes
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