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Far Afield

3.82  ·  Rating details ·  359 ratings  ·  52 reviews
Jonathan Brand, a graduate student in anthropology, has decided to do his fieldwork in the remote Faroe Islands in the North Atlantic. But, despite his Harvard training, he can barely understand, let alone "study," the culture he encounters. From his struggles with the local cuisine to his affair with the Danish woman the locals want him to marry, Jonathan is both repelled ...more
Paperback, 352 pages
Published April 19th 1994 by Vintage (first published 1990)
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Average rating 3.82  · 
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Jamie Campbell
Sep 11, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone who's been . . .25!
I have spent my summer furiously and rapidly reading a spate of excellent books, and this was my favorite. This was one that I had seen prominently displayed at the public library's randomly chosen display of "Paperback fun!". I actually felt guilty when I checked it out (because the cover is emblazoned with "BY THE AUTHOR OF GIRL INTERRUPTED" - a book that I didn't read that was made into an imperfect movie that I assumed was written and consumed by the type of person who glamorizes pretty ...more
Dec 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Maybe four stars because Jonathan is so insufferable. It's ok, I don't need to love my characters but some of the navel gazing passages drag on.

But five stars because of all the other characters and beautiful descriptions.
Feb 03, 2011 rated it liked it
This is a humorous book that I would enjoy reading again. It is a story about a young man who goes to the Faroe Islands to apply his archeological skills and finds himself really having to adapt, but the natives there are more than willing to teach him. It is quite humorous at times.
Elizabeth Theiss
Oct 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
An angst ridden graduate student moves to one of the Faroe Islands for a year to study the local culture for his dissertation at Harvard. Jonathan is a post industrial worrier who wears his anxieties on his sleeve. He has come to a small fishing village with one provision shop to inhabit a simple cottage with no phone.

Jonathan’s entree to the world of the islanders is his willingness to work hard, which they admire. When his toilet won’t flush, helpful islanders loan him a wheelbarrow with
Dec 28, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: iceland
A sort of graduate-student Bildungsroman, this novel centers on the protagonist's year in the Faroe Islands working on his dissertation.
I was pretty excited when I got this book as a gift from my friend Pat, whose college friend at Cornell provided the model for Kaysen's main character, Jonathan Brand. After all, I love all things Northern Atlantic (read: Iceland) and the Faroes are just smaller, more exotic Icelands, right? Well, not quite.

Since I have never been to the Faroes, I took it on
Jun 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing
A great book, you will love it and it will linger in your heart. The writing is lyrical; the setting sublime and the characters engaging.
N.N. Light
Oct 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I read Girl, Interrupted years ago and was pleased Kaysen wrote fiction. This was very different from her debut but in many ways, so much better! Highly recommend!
May 16, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: humour, fiction
It is quite interesting to read a book about your own country.

Jonathan is an American anthropologist and is going to spend a year in the Faroe Islands. The story takes place in one of the smaller islands in the 80s. It was a really weird experience to read about my home country in English and in a way of foreignness.

I was about to give the book four stars, but I decided on three stars because it is all very extreme in a way. There are many important features in this book - sheep hunting, whale
Reading Fury
Jul 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
What an unusual and beautiful read. Jonathan, a grad student whose area is anthropology sort of by the elimination process rather than passionate choice, bucks his advisors and decides to study the culture of the Faroe Islands. He is ill-prepared in all ways. Ultimately, it is hard to tell who is studying whom--the Faroe folk or American Jonathan. This is a novel of warmth and friendliness, but with gritty facts and hard lessons. Reading this book was an intellectual and emotional journey, and ...more
Nov 08, 2019 rated it liked it
Well written, at times poetic description of a young graduate student 's year in the Faroe Islands, sort of pretending to be an anthropologist. Therein lies the problem. Jonathan is a pretty insufferable, self-centered, moody type, who doesn't seem to care much about being an anthropologist, know much about how to go about it, or really want to be an anthropologist when he grows up.
He keeps a distance between himself an everyone else and has really never had much in the way of relationships.
Jan 31, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
It's been a long time since I cried at the end of a book. As a modern person, I sometimes wonder what it would be like to live in a place vastly different and more rural than my own surroundings. This book offers a glimpse of what a year in the Faroe Islands would be like. The difficulty of adjusting, the difficulty making friends, the abrupt change in diet, customs and culture. And at the end, real affection for the people this students got to know.
Oct 21, 2018 rated it liked it
Very different story. Interesting story of a young man who travels to the Faroe Islands and spends a year studying the culture on one of the smallest island. Finds the life at first primitive and then oddly soothing in its simplicity . The terrible weather, limited diet and odd customs make him seem to yearn to be a part of the odd group of people that take him in. He is lulled into a sense of peace that makes him want to stay but in the end, when his year is up he returns home to Boston .
Aug 20, 2018 rated it did not like it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Marie Fouhey
Jul 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is beautifully written book. Not much happens in terms of a plot. It concerns the year long stay of an archeology student in the Faroe Islands, his interaction with the local people, and how this stay changes him. The book was written in the 1990s and the author apparently lived in the Faroe Islands in the 1970s so the islands might be very different now.
Sara Woodbury
Jul 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A favorite which I read every couple years.
Sally Duffy
I thought it would promise more than it did. It was not a bad book, but far from stellar.
Sally Duffy
Hazel Evans
Sep 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The first thing that needs to be said about this book is that it is not an “accurate” or “authentic” picture of the Faroe Islands and the Faroese people. If you pick up this book because you are interested in learning more about that culture, put it down and find a real ethnography, or a history, or something like that. For what this book is, though, it is fantastic.

In terms of events, this book is quite slow; the appeal of it is not so much in the events as it is in the reflection on the
Carly Martin
Dec 31, 2014 rated it really liked it
Makes you feel like you're actually living in the Faroe Islands. The type of book that has you spending as much time researching the places and ideas you're reading about as you do actually reading. Also, it showed up in my dreams, which is the ultimate nod to its captivating effect on my consciousness. The writing is the best kind, the kind that makes you forget it's writing. Though it did include many words that were over my head, they were included in such a way that made it possible to get ...more
Aug 01, 2011 added it
Shelves: travel
Not a bad book at all. There were some parts that I had to skim due to the fact that it was so much useless details that had nothing to do with the overall story, but that is just my personal distaste, I'm sure others enjoy tremendous amounts of details in their stories, with me, I am content knowing that there is a green hill and a man on the top of it, not that there is a single red flower with red ants, their antlers holding on to a single green leaf, etc.

I recommend this book to be read,
Sep 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favourites
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Rebecca LeMoine
Aug 10, 2015 rated it really liked it
This beautifully written book plods along and then suddenly hits you with a remarkable insight into human nature. Though others might find it slow-moving, I enjoyed the pace of the book because it gave me time to dwell on some of the truths of the human condition that emerge, both spoken and unspoken. Witty, colorful, and symmetrical, this book has all the elements of a classic. By the end, you will love the Faroes and the book.
Oct 23, 2012 rated it really liked it
Sussanna Kaysen's "Far Afield" is a book filled with lovely prose and great characterization. It isn't a plot driven novel, but it makes me smile to know the level of detail taken into one character's psych. It is enormously satisfying in the end, and a lot of beautifully detailed passages. Highly recommended. It starts off slow, but then picks up.
Lyra Walsh Fuchs
Feb 16, 2016 rated it liked it
At first I hated it in spite of myself, then liked it in spite of myself ... the protagonist is an insufferable douchebag ... I am curious as to why Kaysen decided to write her protagonist as a winy, misogynistic man, rather than as a woman? Is it incomprehensible that a woman in the 90s would be an independent career academic?

i got to page 29, where our intrepid, and whiny, anthropologist phd student has been invited to his first supper with and "authentic" Faroese, and he and his host are chatting and the Faroese says (in english)they burn "pat" for fuel and its the land. you have to cut it out of the land but you can keep warm and cook with it.
the anthro has NO IDEA what he's talking about. i closed book.
Christie Ward
Jul 10, 2010 rated it really liked it
An engaging book about the nature of civilization, and about being an "outsider" living abroad. Very readable. Surprisingly, I was able to better understand the ritual whale kill that takes place in the Faroe Islands after reading this book. (Still horrific, but the tradition is more complex than I would have imagined before reading this book.)
Jun 10, 2008 rated it really liked it
A re-read for me, but very good, and I appreciated it more this time. About an anthrolpolgy grad student who goes to remote islands in Scandinavia to study a culture that has remained fairly unchanged by technologic progress for 100 years. He spends a year there, and is forced to re-examine himself and his motives as well as he realizes "what the f** am I doing here?"
Ann Badger
Nov 29, 2010 rated it really liked it
Sooooo much fun! raed a few years ago....this is the woman who wrote the autobiography, "Girl Interrupted". Int his case the book is fictional, takes place on the Faroe Islands off the coast of Iceland. It is the story of an anthropology student who goes there to study the locals and ends up in a relationship/romance while there. It is witty, smart and great fun to read.
Jun 10, 2014 rated it it was ok
It's hard to find many books about the Faroe Islands so I was super excited to find one by an author who had written another book that I love (Girl, Interrupted). Sadly, there's not much of a story and the protagonist is neither particularly likeable nor interesting. Two stars for the scenery.
Nov 29, 2011 rated it did not like it
Shelves: abandoned
The writing lacks a flow. This book put me to sleep every time I picked it up and I finally gave up after getting one quarter of the way through. Life is too short to waste so I'm off to the more promising books on my reading list!
Suzanne Replinger
Jan 22, 2008 rated it really liked it
I was a bit skeptical of this book when it was recommended to me, but I really enjoyed it. Based on the subject matter (a Harvard grad doing research in the remote Faroe Islands), I didn't think it would be so interesting. Thanks for the great recommendation, Dana!
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Around the Year i...: Far Afield, by Susanna Kaysen 2 7 Aug 19, 2019 12:17PM  

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Susanna Kaysen is an American author.

Kaysen was born and raised in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Kaysen attended high school at the Commonwealth School in Boston and the Cambridge School before being sent to McLean Hospital in 1967 to undergo psychiatric treatment for depression. It was there she was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. She was released after eighteen months. She later drew
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“He would take refuge in a homey understanding of Faroese ways only to be slapped back to an uncomfortable position as an American by some terrible smell: uncomfortable because he could no more now imagine himself standing at an oak door with a brass knocker, wearing a tie and holding a bottle of Médoc, than he could picture eating rotten meat. He was floating around in cultural hyperspace; nothing felt right.” 2 likes
“Can I try the dryler?"

"No. No." Eyvinder grabbed it and held it to his breast. "Jonathan, I must make a confession." He grinned. "This is really a stone I painted to resemble a dryler. It's very good, no? I have done a beautiful job making it into a dryler. I wanted to give you a full Faroese meal in all its typicality, Anna and I both wanted this. But Anna cannot make dryler. Nobody can make them anymore. We've forgotten how, because they are so stinking bad to eat. They are just like rocks to eat. So, I decided,why not take a rock and make it into a dryler? It's conceptive art, isn't it?"

"Conceptual," said Jonathan”
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