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The Glass Woman

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Betrothed unexpectedly to Jón Eiríksson, Rósa is sent to join her new husband in the remote village of Stykkishólmur. Here, the villagers are wary of outsiders.

But Rósa harbours her own suspicions. Her husband buried his first wife alone in the dead of night. He will not talk of it. Instead he gives her a small glass figurine. She does not know what it signifies.

The villagers mistrust them both. Dark threats are whispered. There is an evil here - Rósa can feel it. Is it her husband, the villagers - or the land itself?

Alone and far from home, Rósa sees the darkness coming. She fears she will be its next victim...

392 pages, Hardcover

First published February 7, 2019

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About the author

Caroline Lea

5 books260 followers
Caroline Lea grew up on the island of Jersey and gained a First from Warwick University. Her fiction and poetry have been shortlisted for the Bridport Prize and the BBC Short Story Prize. Her debut novel, The Glass Woman, a gothic thriller set during the Icelandic witch trials, was shortlisted for the HWA Debut Crown Award. Her next novel, The Metal Heart, was a powerful Second World War love story set on the island of Orkney.

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5 stars
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3 stars
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133 (2%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 970 reviews
Profile Image for Debra .
2,282 reviews35k followers
July 15, 2019
1686, ICELAND. A time of few choices for a woman. When marriage is not a choice but a means of survival. When you can't marry someone, you have feelings for as he/she might be a social class above or below you. Then, there is the threat of being labeled a witch…. ahh, the good ole days.....

"Sometimes I wonder if God hears my grief. Prayers fall like pebbles from my lips, and still the Lord is silent. Even the creator cannot unmake the past."

Rosa and her Mother are slowly starving. Without a provider, Rosa has little choice but to marry Jón Eiríksson and move with him to the remote village of Stykkishólmur. The villagers are not very welcoming, and her new husband has many rules such as don't talk to the villagers, do not question him, do as he says, and oh yes, don't ever try to enter the locked loft room. Rosa is lonely and frightened as she hears sounds from above, she becomes anxious and knows that something is amiss. Plus, there are rumors about the death of his first wife and why he buried her at night without informing the villagers.

Gossip and rumors are everywhere. Even the women in the village caution Rosa about her husband. But is he really an evil man or just a closed off one? Did he harm his first wife? Was his strange wandering first wife a witch or a troubled woman? Can loneliness drive a person mad? What tricks does our mind play on us when we hear things that go bump in the night?

I love books set in harsh bleak cold environments. This book is hauntingly atmospheric, cold and foreboding. The landscape and winter season are just as much a character in this book. Harsh, unforgiving and cold. This book felt Gothic in nature and has been compared to Jane Eyre and Rebecca. There is a dark mystery here as well as tales of longing and love.

"Some loves are deep enough to dive into, deep enough for the total submersion of the self.".

I read this in one day and found this tale to be both riveting and completely absorbing. I didn't want to put it down. Rosa grows as a character in this book as does the truth and the motivations behind certain characters behavior. This is a beautifully written and gripping tale of superstition, culture, love/forbidden love, culture, and survival.

Thank you to HarperCollins Publishers and NetGalley who provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Beata.
729 reviews1,113 followers
October 21, 2019
I enjoyed this novel thoroughly, for the plot and wonderfully created atmosphere of the place and period. Iceland in the 17th century seems to be a place that is dominated by all shades of grey and black, and so is hard life, which brings chores and little joy. Occasionally, there is a splash of cheerful yellow, just like there may be a cheerful moment or two for the inhabitants of the island.
The plot is intriguing, the place dark and yet appealing, and characters that do not leave a reader indifferent.
Five stars from me as I will return to this novel ...
Profile Image for Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader.
2,121 reviews30.2k followers
August 29, 2019
Women in Iceland (and everywhere, really) during this time period are expected to marry, and Rosa’s marriage is quickly arranged. She moves with her new husband, Jon, to a remote village, one where they don’t like “outsiders” like Rosa.

Rosa discovers her husband has buried his first wife, and she’s suspicious. He won’t speak of her death. The villagers don’t trust Jon either. Rosa senses darkness and worries for her future.

The atmosphere is harsh, bleak, and foreboding. The winter is particularly brutal. The Glass House has Gothic elements I enjoyed, and the mystery was full of suspense.

Overall, I found The Glass Woman to be a riveting mystery with beautiful writing, a captivating main character, steeped in Icelandic culture, and a satisfying read.

I received a complimentary copy from the publisher. All opinions are my own.

Many of my reviews can also be found on instagram: www.instagram.com/tarheelreader
Profile Image for Paige.
152 reviews286 followers
August 20, 2019
17th Century Iceland: Witchcraft is punishable by death. Women are held submissive by virtue of Biblical scriptures. Food is scarce and the ocean is a death trap. The season of winter looms over villages like the shadow of the Engill dauðans.

Rosa trades her freedom and future by marrying the well-off bóndi Jon in order to help save her ill mother. After marrying and moving away, she is met with the haunting realization that his croft is filled with secrets and the village brimming with gossip. Her husband is distant, but the noises are near. Is she going mad hearing things?

Filled with Icelandic saga references and superstitions, this is a story that I found bewitching. The beginning was a bit difficult for me to adjust to with the use of old language, but I could not stop reading. This novel kept me engaged throughout. I was constantly trying to figure out how did Jon’s first wife die? How did he kill her, or did he have someone else do it? What are the mysterious noises in his croft? Will Rosa be safe, or will she run, or will the marriage grow into love? What about her and Pall? Is Petur to be trusted?

I recommend reading on a Kindle in order to translate the Icelandic words and phrases; however, my Kindle was unable to translate some. There was a glossary of Icelandic words in the very back, but I didn't realize that until I had finished reading. Many thanks to HarperCollins, Caroline Lea, and Netgalley for an advanced copy in exchange for my honest review.

17th Century Icelandic Tales
Witchcraft and Sorcery in Iceland
Profile Image for Annette.
763 reviews336 followers
February 7, 2022
Iceland, 1686. Rosa, in order to help her mother and their dire situation, agrees to marry Jon Eiriksson, a rich fisherman, farmer and merchant from Stykkisholmur. And despite her mother’s insistence not to, who sees her daughter as willful, not fit to be an obedient wife, especially with her love for reading and writing.

As soon as Rose arrives at her husband’s village, there is a constant mystery hanging in the air, be it some mysterious noise or shadows Rosa hears or sees at the hut, or other women’s unfinished sentences about her husband’s first wife or warnings about being obedient wife without any further explanation. After a while this mystery becomes annoying.

It seems as it goes in circles and even if something new happens, it just adds to the annoying mystery and not progression the plot. There is also no character development besides the constant reminder that she must be obedient. I was hoping that her love for reading and writing would come through in this story, but that’s not the case.

The story does start interesting and the initial build-up of the mystery is engrossing. I was looking forward to Rosa’s story, but 30% into the story I was annoyed by the mystery and disappointed by Rosa. Nevertheless, I have to say the narration and the setting are very original.
Profile Image for Bren fall in love with the sea..
1,574 reviews271 followers
February 8, 2020
“Their words make grey clouds of sound in the cold air...”
― Caroline Lea, The Glass Woman

Clothed in wild Gothic beauty, drenched in vivid Prose, one can hear the howling sea, feel the Iceland cold and see the village people. More to follow.

So.as you may have guessed I liked this book!

As many have commented, it takes place in the 1600S in Iceland. And what atmosphere this book has.
The book's writing is gorgeous and sweeping and that, together with the vivid characterizations make this a book well worth reading.

It is a tough book to review without giving spoilers. I will say I disagree with many of the other reviewers. I've read several reviews that say the book was slow at first to get into but towards the middle it captures them. For me it was the opposite.

I was into this from page one. I felt the book did draw one in immediately and I was willing and eager to be drawn in. I quite liked Rosa and there were aspects of this book that were genuinely haunting and creepy. Like, for example. what was going on in the attic. This aspect was pure Gothic and I loved it.

So why a 3 and not a 4? Because as good as the book was I started losing interest as it went on. So the opposite of what the above mentioned comments from other reviewers happened to me.


As soon as it was established Anna was alive, I felt my interest wane a bit. The story then became a bit predictable and also a bit scattered, at least for me. And as much as I liked this, I felt, even in the beginning there was so much repetition to the plot, that I was not as into it as I would have liked.

That does not mean it isn't a good a story. Rarely have I read a book so rich in atmosphere and it is worth reading just for that. I also learned so much about Iceland. I am glad I read this.

I wasn't all that happy with the ending. I felt there were many unanswered questions and I'd have liked Jon to survive. One thing I felt from the beginning is that Jon did not kill Anna. I am glad I was right in that respect. I actually came to like him as a character.

My favorite parts of this book were the descriptions of the sea, the village and villagers and the incredible writing in general. But had this story taken place without all that incredible atmosphere I may not have finished it. I was into the atmosphere more then the story itself.

So 3.5 stars and highly recommended for Historical Fiction and Gothic fans.
Profile Image for Liz Barnsley.
3,430 reviews991 followers
November 13, 2018
Oh I DEVOURED this book. Haunting, chilly, beautifully created, 17th Century Iceland comes alive on the page and you feel for  it’s inhabitants who struggle daily to survive..
Into this epic landscape comes Rosa, who marries for practical purposes not love and who comes to believe she may be in grave danger from Husband Jon, the death of his first wife being  surrounded by gossip, intrigue and dark mutterings of witchcraft..
Caroline Lea paints a deeply sinister picture of  Rosa’s new home and draws you into this relentlessly harsh environment where death is only ever a breath away. Rosa is an amazingly engaging character, fiercely independent internally whilst outwardly projecting obedience, you get totally caught up in her wish to know the secrets hidden from her.
The whole thing is entirely gorgeously addictive, I found the growing relationship between Rosa and Jon utterly riveting, with  the community around them and it’s suspicious nature both dividing them and drawing them together.
I won’t give too much away but this is both clever and pitched perfectly, even the mundane day to day tasks are vividly drawn, there is not a single dull moment.
The Glass Woman is melancholy and heart breaking, a tale to fall into, it is unpredictable and so so good. Loved it.
Don’t miss it!
Highly Recommended.
December 24, 2019
But such moments of savage contentment are as fleeting as the reflection of the swelling moon blinking upon the surface of the sea. Only ever minutes old, they dissolve with a passing cloud, or a gust of wind.
In every human heart glows a tiny flame of hope that tomorrow will bring a love that might satisfy the smouldering yearning to be known. In some hearts, that fire is greedy and becomes a devouring inferno. It leaves only dead ash and dry dust behind. The wind whirls it into emptiness.But there is such heat while it burns … And the light is infinite. (c)
The darkness is smothering, but I can hear the inhalations of the waves and smell the salt. The sea has been present all of my days, like lifeblood. (c)
Neither of us will let the other fall. (c)
Love opens us, as an earthquake opens the earth.
I turn to face the sea and I walk. I am overwhelmed by the sensation of lightness, as if the stones weigh nothing. It is a return to the still waters, after a lifetime of currents and drift.
And, beneath the breathing sky, I have never felt more alive. (c)
One day she will return. (c)
Some stories she will not tell. She will choose, day by day, which truths to reveal. And, gradually, the tales she tells will become truth. In this way, she will live with who she has become. She is a woman capable of violence. She is a woman who did what was necessary. She is a woman who has survived.
But the truth isn’t solid, like the earth; she knows that now. The truth is water, or steam; the truth is ice. The same tale might shift and melt and reshape at any time. (c)
Thoughts of her husband and all that happened in Stykkishólmur are distant and ice-covered. They belong to another life. For now, this closeness, this comfort, is all that exists. (c)
Profile Image for Tammy.
511 reviews429 followers
August 27, 2019
17th century Iceland is not an easy place to live. Impoverished, Rosa marries to keep her mother alive and in doing so elevates her social standing, leaves the love of her life behind, and enters a world of unceasing work. The death of her husband’s first wife is the cause of gossip and rumor among the villagers and there is something (or someone) in a locked room upstairs that goes bump in the night. This is stark, dark and very satisfying.
Profile Image for Blair.
1,766 reviews4,232 followers
February 7, 2019
What better setting for a winter read than Iceland? The Glass Woman opens with a striking image: a tremor cracks the ice and a body floats to the surface of the sea, arm aloft, 'bone-white fingers waving, as if alive'. It's November 1686 on the western coast of Iceland, and as a group of villagers gathers, a man among them reflects on recent memories. He, we understand, knows the identity of the person under the ice; he put them there.

The main story, however, takes place months earlier and centres on a young woman named Rósa. Living in a small, impoverished community, she fears her mother, Sigridúr, will not survive the winter unless she finds a way to pay for extra insulation and food. The solution is marriage to Jón, a wealthy bonði (chieftain of a settlement). Their union ensures Sigridúr's safety and comfort. But it also takes Rósa away from her home (and her first love Páll) to live with Jón in Stykkishólmur. There, she finds the villagers suspicious and fearful, whispering about the death of Jón's first wife Anna and warning Rósa against disobeying him.

Rósa finds her new husband (and his right-hand man Pétur) quietly terrifying. Jón expects her to stay in their croft alone, with nothing to do but housework and Bible study. Then there's the loft space he insists on keeping locked, the creaking floorboards Rósa hears at night, the figure standing beside her bed in the dark...

The Glass Woman is a retelling of 'Bluebeard': this becomes clearer as the story goes on, though Lea strays from the template in pleasing ways. In terms of more contemporary fiction, it has the intrigue and emotional core of The Miniaturist combined with the setting and atmosphere of Burial Rites. It also reminded me a little of The Silent Companions – both feature a recently married woman travelling to her husband's home, only to find it filled with secrets and things that go bump in the night.

If I were to criticise anything, it would be the length. I'm not entirely convinced that the story needs to be 400 pages long; given the limited nature of a) the setting and b) what Rósa can actually do with her time, some scenes begin to feel repetitive.

But the payoff is worth it: I was thoroughly captivated throughout and the ending(s) almost made me cry. I loved how The Glass Woman subverted expectations, particularly how it showed the power of gossip and hearsay in establishing 'facts' (and myths, and, in time, fairytales). In the end, practically nobody in the story plays the role they originally appear to be designed for.

I received an advance review copy of The Glass Woman from the publisher through NetGalley.

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Profile Image for Diane S ☔.
4,733 reviews14.1k followers
August 30, 2019
Stopping at 38%. The atmosphere and setting kept me reading this far, but this book is so slowly paced. To me painfully so, I just need to put it aside.
Profile Image for Caroline.
218 reviews111 followers
December 15, 2020
I’m really into atmospheric, gothic books at the moment and this certainly ticks that box! Set in Iceland in 1686, the whole plot of a young wife being haunted by her aloof husband’s ex feels like it’s been done to death and the plot really sags in the middle as too much time is given to this. (She takes the gloomy atmosphere to an all new depressing level!) But the last third, is brilliant so overall a good read. 👍
Profile Image for Renee Godding.
611 reviews574 followers
March 23, 2019
Actual rating: 4.5 stars

This exceeded my expectations with how great it was.

Iceland, 1686. Rosa, a village girl from an impoverished family, is send off into a marriage of financial convenience, in order to keep her secure funds for her sick mother to survive the harsh winter. Rosa’s new found life does not come easy however. The small and isolated community of her new home is distrustful and unwelcoming to strangers. Rumors of witchcraft and misdeeds are mumbled around town, seemingly having Rosa’s new husband Jón at the center of them.
What is Jón hiding? What’s in the attic that is so private Rosa is never allowed up there? And most importantly: what happened to Jón’s previous wife Anna, that nobody seems to dare to speak of.

I picked up The Glass Woman completely on a whim (not in the least part because the stunning cover drew my eye), but was captivated by the story as soon as I read the first chapter. Darkly atmospheric, suspenseful and quite emotional in the end: this was everything I could have asked for at the moment.
Caroline Lea’s beautiful writing does an amazing job of creating an eerie atmosphere of isolation, unwelcomeness and suspicion that permeates the entire story. Lea’s use of islandic words and knowledge of the daily life at the time add to the immersion and are a testament to the authors research on the subject.
Atmosphere and suspense alone account for about 3.5 to 4 out of the 4.5 stars I just gave this novel. Dumbly enough, as much as I enjoy and value that quality in books, I suck at describing it in a review, especially to someone who hasn’t read the novel yet. My best shot is: if you enjoyed (the atmosphere and feeling of) Burial Rites or Rebecca, this might be for you.
Apart from the mystery and atmosphere, my favorite thing about The Glass Woman was the character of Rosa. She starts off as a scared and fragile little girl but really grows into newfound strength along the way. The same goes for the reluctant relationship between her and Jon, which grows stronger in a way, albeit not the way they anticipated.

Saying too much more about the characters or plot might spoil things that are best discovered on your own. I recommend you pick it up and do just that.
A very beautiful novel (inside and out), and extremely under-read and underrated at the moment. Highly recommend.
Profile Image for Whispering Stories.
2,643 reviews2,558 followers
February 25, 2019
Book Reviewed by Stacey on www.whisperingstories.com

August 1686, Iceland. Rósa, the daughter of the late Bishop of Skalholt is living with her mother Sigridur in a little hut. They once lead a comfortable life, now after the death of her father, Rósa and her mother are struggling.

A new wealthy man, Jón Eiríksson, arrives in town, they say his wife has only been dead for a few months and that he is there to not only deal with some work but to find himself a local girl to marry too.

With Rósa’s mum being very poorly and the family now having next to no money, when Jón takes a fancy to Rósa at first she rebukes his charm but the sicker her mother becomes the more she realises it is the only way that she can help her, so Rósa agrees to marry Jón and move to live with her new husband in a remote village called Stykkishólmur. In exchange, he will help her mother and the villagers to live a more comfortable life.

Moving to a new place with only her new husband who she barely knows and Petur who works for her husband, Róse becomes increasingly unhappy and isolated. There are plenty of rumours surrounding the death of Jón’s first wife and with a locked attic room in her house that Jón forbids her to enter, Rósa becomes concerned that something is amiss and that maybe the rumours are true.

Weird noise keeps Rósa awake at night and she is convinced that there are dark spirits at play in the settlement. With an unsupportive husband who is very commanding and the feeling of dread hanging over her, could Rósa’s life be in danger?, and can she solve the mystery of what happened to Jón’s first wife, the wife he refuses to talk about?

The first thing you will notice when you begin reading this book is how atmospheric it is. I haven’t read many books set in Iceland, but this historical book set in the country where darkness fills the time more than the daylight is exceptionally surreal. The coldness that the characters have to deal with is felt through the pages and at times it made me shiver. This shows how realistic the book felt at times.

The book is set in an era where people believed in ghosts, spirits, witches, legends, etc and had their own way of dealing with them from chants, potions, and even runes to ward off the bad spirits and keep people safe.

Both Rósa and Jón were fascinating characters to get involved with and it was a joy and a privilege to watch their development, especially Rosa’s, as this was a woman living in 1686 who was educated, wise beyond her years and knew what she wanted in life. As the book progressed so did their characters and I loved watching them evolve. The book is quite slow in pace, however, the story was so absorbing that the slowness wasn’t an issue.

It took me about a week to read the book as I needed to concentrate on the plot to fully devour it. It is captivating and has a real Gothic, mystical feel to it. It was nice to read a book that really lived up to its title too.
Profile Image for Sonja Arlow.
1,080 reviews7 followers
March 18, 2019
This is a wonderfully atmospheric book set in one of my favourite time periods and places. It has an interesting story and characters as well as stellar audio narrators…….yet I could never really connect with the story.

I wonder if it would have made a difference if I read this rather than listen to it. Some books need to be read at a faster pace to be sucked in.

The author paints a foreboding and sinister picture of Rosa’s new home. Newly married, extremely isolated and unsure of her role in this community, Rosa tries to make sense of the noises she hears at night, the rumours about her predecessor and the volatility of Jon’s interactions with her. The villagers are no help either as she is forbidden contact with anyone other than Jon and his farm hand.

As the story progresses more background is given about Rosa and Jon yet the switch in timelines and from 3rd to 1st person didn’t work very well for me.

The book is compared to Burial Rites but it reminded me a lot more of Rebecca.

I can completely understand the glowing reviews as the author created a very distinct sense of time and place but unfortunately the story never took off for me.
Profile Image for Jane.
820 reviews613 followers
February 8, 2019
I was drawn in by an intriguing title, a beautiful cover, and the promise of a dark tale set in a cold country.

Then I was captured by a striking image.

On the coast of Iceland in November 1686 a a tremor cracked the ice and a body floated to the surface of the sea. One arm was raised and its bone-white fingers waved, as if it was alive.

A group of villagers gathered to watch and talk, but there was one man among them who remained silent; because he knew the who the person under under the ice had been and he knew how that person had come to be there ….

Some months earlier, a young woman named Rósa was living in a small, impoverished community with her widowed mother, Sigridúr. She knew that her mother was growing frail and would not survive the winter if she could not find more money to buy food and fuel.

She had received an offer of marriage from Jón, the wealthy leader of a settlement some distance away. He promised to look after her mother and the local community; and so, though she didn’t want to leave her mother, her home and Páll – her childhood sweetheart who she had always thought she would wed – she knew that she had to accept the proposal.

When she travelled to her new home in Stykkishólmur with her new husband, Rósa was concerned that her husband was taciturn, that he had them sleep in the open rather than seek lodgings, and that when they did meet other people he gave a false name.

She hoped that things would be better when she was settled in her new home, but her husband made it clear that she was to be subservient and remain at the their croft to keep house and leave only at his bidding.

He told her that he didn’t want his wife mixing with the people in the village; and when she approached her neighbours she found that they were reluctant to speak to her, that there was a mystery surrounding the death of the death of Jón’s first wife, and that they would say to her was that she should obey her husband.

Just one woman, Katrin, tried to do a little more to help her.

Rósa couldn’t help being fearful of her new husband, and of his apprentice, Pétur. She tried to please Jón, and sometimes she succeeded, but she struggled to cope with staying in their croft alone, with little to occupy her time.

She loved reading and writing, she loved the old sagas, but her mother had warned her that her husband would not approve of any of that, and so she wrote only a little and hid her writing very carefully.

She wondered what was in the loft space he insisted must be kept locked at all time, about what made the floorboards creak at night when her husband was away and she was in her bed alone, and about what had really had happened to the wife who came before her ….

Rósa was a wonderfully engaging character and I really felt that I was living through this story with her. I understood her feelings, and I appreciated how carefully she walked the line as she tried to please her husband and to establish a life for herself.

The storytelling kept me close to her, and while it moved slowly at times I realised that it had to, to catch the reality of Rósa’s situation.

The writing was dark and lovely, and it caught the time, the place and the atmosphere wonderfully well.

I had reservations though.

My first reservation was that the time and place didn’t seem that specific. The setting was beautifully realised, the landscape had a significant part to play in the story; but I couldn’t help thinking that the story might have been set in any isolated community in a cold country, at a point in history where there were tensions between old and new traditions.

My second reservation was that the structure didn’t work as well as it should. At first the story was told purely from Rósa’s point of view, but some way into the book another perspective was added into the mix. I completely understood the need for that second voice, it enriched the story but I wish it had been introduced a little earlier and that the transitions had been done with a little more finesse.

Luckily, there was much more that I loved.

I thought I might be a retelling of a traditional story, and I might have been in the beginning; but in time that story was subverted quite beautifully, and I found that the truth of this story and its characters were not at all as I had expected.

I was caught up in the story from the beginning but in the later stages, when it reached the time when the body emerged from the icy sea and the consequences of that played out, I realised how real Rósa, the people around her and the world that they lived in had become to me.

This book, with its secrets and its silences, worked so well in this dark, cold winter.
Profile Image for Susan.
2,640 reviews598 followers
January 25, 2019
This historical novel is set in Iceland in 1686. Rosa lives with her mother in a small, isolated community. This is a bleak landscape, where life is hard and existence difficult. While Rosa’s father was alive; a respected member of the community, they lived fairly comfortably – but, with his death, the two quickly struggle. When a stranger appears, the wealthy Jon Eriksson, Rosa ignores her mother’s warnings, as well as her own reluctance, and decides to marry him, in order to help protect her mother, who is unwell.

She travels to the croft of her new husband, prepared to try to be an obedient wife and put aside her dreams of reading and writing. For her parents encouraged her desire to write and she delighted in the sagas and stories of her home. However, the lines between myth and witchcraft are blurred in this world and it is easy to be accused for a false word.

Rosa’s life with Jon is difficult. Rumours abound about the death of his first wife, she is lonely and her husband does not encourage company, other than Petur, who works with him. The croft has a loft, which is locked and, soon, Rosa believes that her new home is haunted. Suspicious, afraid and nervous of her new husband, she begins to wonder what really happened to the wife who came before her…

This novel has a wonderful setting and is well written and atmospheric. For me, it read a little like, “Rebecca,” but relocated to another time and place. An enjoyable read, which was perfect for reading with snow swirling outside in a cold January. I received a copy of this book from the publisher, via NetGalley, for review.

Profile Image for Paltia.
633 reviews86 followers
November 23, 2019
“Overhead the ravens wheel and shriek, always searching for the dead.”
In the prologue we are transported to 1686 Iceland. As the ice shifts and cracks the sea releases a trapped body. This sets the tone for the story of how each character is trapped. They are trapped, in part, by the time they live in. A time that punishes by death those who practice the old beliefs, demands a female always remain obedient and frequently forbids the expression of love. When one is forced to hide one’s true feelings it follows that secrecy and fear take hold. Left alone in her croft Elsa becomes fearful. She experiences strange sounds from above and feels something moving past her in the dark cold nights. Her thoughts begin to torment her. She wonders if she might die from loneliness. The source of her fear is invisible so she searches her memory for answers. Does she hold an experience from her past that is capable of creating this much fear? Without any real experience to rely on her mind moves to superstitions. She tells herself she must be imagining things. If only she weren’t so alone and afraid to ask questions. Yet through her torment and the web of secrecy and lies around her one always discerns love peeking out from the center. Each character loves someone and with this love comes desperation. They love someone so much they will do anything to protect them. Somber, mystical and suspenseful The Glass Woman is above all else a story of love.
Profile Image for Olga Kowalska (WielkiBuk).
1,412 reviews2,300 followers
February 20, 2020
XVII wiek, bezwzględne lodowe połacie Islandii i młoda kobieta, która gotowa jest na wszystko, by ratować swoich najbliższych w przejmującej opowieści z baśniową poświatą "Kobieta ze szkła" Caroline Lei.

Powieść Caroline Lei od razu przywodzi na myśl literackie nawiązanie do klasycznej baśni o Sinobrodym, który w swoim zamku więził i mordował kolejne młode żony, kolejne skuszone jego bogactwem kobiety. Tak jak tyran z baśni, tak i Jon, mąż Rósy, ma swój sekret, którego pilnie strzeże, a którego ona nie może odkryć. I tak jak w baśni – odpowiedzi na najbardziej dręczące pytania odnaleźć można jedynie za szczelnie zamkniętymi drzwiami pomieszczenia na strychu, bo nikt z okolicznych mieszkańców nie chce puścić pary z ust, a niedopowiedzenia i urwane myśli tylko piętrzą się i dręczą. Ta tajemnica, ten sekret drąży tak bohaterkę, jak i czytelników. Wystawia na próbę naszą cierpliwość i zdrowy rozsądek Rósy, której wyobraźnia podsuwa najbardziej nieoczywiste, najbardziej spotworniałe obrazy. A rozwiązanie zagadki jest inne niż byśmy to sobie wyobrażali.

Caroline Lea w piękny i nieoczywisty sposób krąży wokół tajemnic, wokół sekretów, tworząc opowieść, której osią jest przygnębiający los osamotnionej kobiety, która została wystawiona na najokrutniejszą z możliwych prób. Przed czytelnikiem Islandia w całej swojej okazałości – krajobraz ostry, przenikliwy, niemal wyjałowiony, w którym życiodajna energia płynie w najmniej oczekiwanych miejscach. W "Kobiecie ze szkła" odnajdziemy melancholię, tęsknotę za ciepłem i zrozumieniem, ale przede wszystkim tętniącą cichym ogniem niczym wulkan Hekla siłę, której nic nie zdoła powstrzymać, gdy przyjdzie jej czas.

Opowieść baśniowa, lodowata, rozpaczliwie piękna.
Profile Image for Tania.
1,198 reviews270 followers
May 16, 2019
It took me a while to get into this book, I went from audible to e-reader back to audible. In the end the audio worked best for me because the narrators did a brilliant job creating a tense, eerie feeling. I loved the male narrator's accent, and they definitely also managed to add more feeling to the story.

One of the strongest elements in The Glass Woman is the Icelandic setting. The descriptions of the harsh environment, and the isolation because of this, forms the core of this historical mystery. I also found the move from, and struggle between, their Sagas to Christianity very interesting.

The were moments of brilliance in the writing, but something was definitely missing, and I suspect that this was that I was never able to form a true connection to anyone in the story.

Even though this was not a 5 star read, I'm still very glad I stuck with it, as there are scenes and sentences that will stay with me for a long time.

The Story: The novel follows Rosa after she agrees to marry a wealthy stranger. Moving to his village, away from everything and everyone she knows, she longs for companionship and a home. Instead, Rosa finds a township full of mistrust and gossip, a husband who is detached, a locked room, and tales of how his last wife, Anna, mysteriously disappeared. With no one to confide in, Rosa attempts to patch together the suspicious villagers’ conflicting hearsay accounts to figure out what did happen to Anna and what may happen to herself.

Profile Image for Navessa.
Author 10 books7,513 followers
Want to read
August 21, 2020

"A young bride must contend with ancient superstitions, disturbing secrets, and her mysterious new husband in this gothic historical novel, set in late-seventeeth-century Iceland, with the eerie, romantic atmosphere of Jane Eyre and Rebecca and the dark, haunting mystery of Burial Rites."

Profile Image for Fiona.
826 reviews437 followers
December 17, 2018
So nearly a 5 star read.

I was drawn to this novel because it’s set in Iceland, a land and culture that has an endless fascination for me. It’s set in the 17th century and gets off to a slow start. Rosa leaves the love of her life behind to marry a wealthy man who can provide for her ailing mother. From the moment she sets off for Stykkishólmur, where her husband lives, there is a menacing undercurrent and the book quickly becomes a page turner. Rosa’s new husband, Jon, has already lost one wife. He shows her little affection because really he just needs someone to cook and clean and help him with the farm. There is a loft in the building but it’s kept locked. Rosa imagines she hears someone moving around up there but can’t get in to see. Her husband forbids her to mix with the locals so she quickly feels isolated and frightened.

To say much more would be to spoil the unfolding of the story. We jump about between months and between different accounts, a good device for keeping our interest and increasing the tension and it works. Why isn’t this a 5 star read then? I didn’t need to read the acknowledgements at the end to know that the author doesn’t really know Iceland. The story could have been set anywhere where remote communities make travel difficult and strangers arouse suspicion. Her first book, which I haven’t read, is set on the island of Jersey where she grew up. I think it’s good advice for authors, especially new ones, to stick to what they know. The Icelandic setting rarely felt authentic and I wasn’t surprised to learn that she has only been there fleetingly, relying mostly on research.

It’s a good read, however. I really enjoyed the suspense which the author builds up very well. It’s very exciting at times and she tries to address important issues.

With thanks to NetGalley and Penguin UK / Michael Joseph for a free review copy.
Profile Image for SueLucie.
457 reviews20 followers
December 17, 2018
I didn’t just read this book, I experienced it. Caroline Lea conjures up an atmosphere fraught with tension that permeates every page. A tiny, isolated community is eking out an existence in a stark, brutal landscape where everything around them is dangerous - blizzards, the icy sea, the turbulent, volcanic land itself and, not least, each other. They walk a fine line between a harsh version of Christianity and the old beliefs in witchcraft and omens, and cling to superstition - any event out of the ordinary can be seen to bode badly. Into this community comes Rosa, young and hopeful new wife to the local chief, and is soon in danger of being overwhelmed by loneliness, menacing gossip and a husband who terrifies her.

There is only a handful of characters and the action scarcely extends beyond Rosa’s back yard, so the feeling of claustrophobia is high, and a couple of gruesome events didn’t make for easy reading. The novel’s structure is effective. We rely on Rosa’s narrative at first and her view of events from an incomer’s perspective, but later the narrative alternates between Rosa and her husband Jon, so his back story reveals how he came to be as he is and the reason for his behaviour. Characters and their motivations are no longer as black and white as they seemed and the tension builds to an unexpectedly poignant conclusion.

An engrossing story, terrifically well written, and highly recommended (especially to those who have enjoyed works by Sarah Moss and Hannah Kent, both of whom are acknowledged in the author’s afterword as inspirations).

With many thanks to Penguin, Michael Joseph via NetGalley for the opportunity to read an ARC.
Profile Image for Andrea.
769 reviews30 followers
April 21, 2020
Around her neck was a leather cord, on which dangled a tiny glass figurine that Jón had offered to her that morning as a wedding gift. It was cold, like frozen water, and shaped into the perfect form of a woman: tiny hands clasped in introspection, gaze meekly lowered. ... A woman made of glass and stillness: perfect but easily shattered.

Anyone who has read Hannah Kent's novel, Burial Rites, already knows that croft-life in Iceland in the olden days was hard. In The Glass Woman we discover that 140 years earlier, it was even harder. Not enough food, warmth or light. Too much smoke, gossip and superstition.

When her beloved Pabbi dies, and her mamma falls gravely ill, Rósa decides to accept Jón Eiríksson's offer of marriage and move far away to the coastal settlement of Stykkishólmur. Jón is both large and stern - intimidating to a slight, young, sensitive woman like Rósa - but by all accounts he is a wise and fair goði (chieftain) to his people. Arriving at Stykkishólmur, Rósa finds that there are a lot of secrets in the village, and when she is forbidden to mix with the locals, she wonders how she will ever overcome the loneliness of her new life. Who will reassure her when she hears strange noises coming from the locked loft? How will she find out the true circumstances of the death of Jón's first wife? Why do things keep appearing and disappearing from around the croft? Her only comfort the glass figurine, Rósa despairs. Until the day her childhood friend, confidante and sweetheart, Páll, turns up at the croft.

I chose this book to read as part of my around-the-world-gothic personal challenge for 2020. A number of reviewers had classified it as gothic, and it sounded good, but is it really an example of gothic fiction? On balance, I think so. It has the 1600s Icelandic version of a big ole' spooky house - in this case Jón's croft, which is the largest and best-maintained in the village, but with its off-limits loft from whence comes strange noises seemingly whenever Rósa is alone! Then there's Rósa herself, a small, obedient woman and unlikely heroine, who proves to have more grit than anyone could have imagined when the chips are down. Add to this a forbidden romance (or two...), a mystery, a struggle between religion and the old ways, some extremely bleak weather, and I think all the main boxes are ticked.

Profile Image for Cathy.
1,179 reviews215 followers
February 7, 2019
Rosa finds herself far from home, far from everything and everyone she has known, and married to Jon, leader of a remote Icelandic community. Given the mystery surrounding the death of Jon's first wife, hints of madness and a loft she is forbidden to enter from which strange noises seem to emanate at night, Rosa could be forgiven for thinking she's in some 17th century Icelandic version of Jane Eyre or Rebecca. Add to that Jon's reluctance to talk about his past and his command that Rosa should not mix with the other villagers and you've all the ingredients for a deliciously atmospheric Gothic-style mystery.

The author does a brilliant job of creating an atmosphere of claustrophobia and suffocating seclusion as well as bringing to life the realities of the harsh life of the remote community, the endless domestic drudgery and battle against the elements. There's also fascinating detail about Icelandic culture of the time including the food, language, household routines, customs, social order and mythology. It's a society in which the expected role of women is obedience and where any deviation brings the risk of accusation of witchcraft.

Alternating between the point of views of Rosa and Jon, the narrative switches between past and present until both storylines converge and all is finally revealed. When it is, it's a story of cruelty, forbidden love, madness born out of grief and unfulfilled desire, dark nights and even darker deeds.

The Glass Woman is an atmospheric, intense and powerful story and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Profile Image for 8stitches 9lives.
2,780 reviews1,625 followers
February 8, 2019
The Glass Woman is a deceptively bleak tale set in the vast icy expanse of seventeenth-century Iceland, and what I enjoyed the most was how very dark it was; the atmosphere was ominous, to say the least, and completely oppressive. The beautiful, brutal setting added to the atmospherics wonderfully and the Icelandic cultural references were intriguing to me. Perhaps it's the harshness of the landscape that has fuelled the suspicion running rife in the small communities who look on outsiders with mistrust, or perhaps there really is an evil waiting to be unmasked.

A haunting novel that is richly-imagined and full of mystery, intrigue and melancholy. The characters are beautifully drawn with sadness about them, but be warned nothing in this novel is quite what it seems. The writing style was beautiful and immersive and the descriptions, in particular, were stunning. I fell hook, line and sinker for this mesmerising tale of superstition, fear, paranoia and wonderment. The setting is as much character as the cast, and it provides the backdrop to the perfect menacing tale for a chilly winter evening.

Many thanks to Michael Joseph for an ARC.

You can also find my reviews posted here on my blog.
Profile Image for Jerrie.
986 reviews129 followers
September 7, 2019
I really enjoyed this Gothic-like story set in 1689 Iceland. Following her father’s death, Rosa is forced to marry and move away from home so that she and her mother will not freeze or starve during the coming winter. Rumors abound about the fate of her new husband’s first wife and the strange man who works for him. The author did a great job of sustaining tension throughout and audiobook narration was very good. 4.5⭐️
Profile Image for Emma.
2,433 reviews828 followers
April 6, 2019
Iceland proves a bleak and dramatic setting- Icelandic gothic maybe? The writing is evocative and well executed. The descriptions of people’s superstitions, of Witches and their reliance on Sagas contributed to the atmosphere of darkness and chill. However I didn’t feel surprised by the plot, it seemed highly predictable to me. Many thanks to Netgalley for an arc of this book.
Profile Image for Dee.
205 reviews42 followers
May 9, 2023
I had so many different feelings and views as i get deeper into the story. Each new page or chapter turns over something new and unexpected that it is impossible not to enjoy. The writting style is easy and enjoyable. It is packed with information and twists. I cryed at the end. I loved this book and the characters. It leaves you with so much to think about with each individual and their own part in the story. Nothing till the book is finished is what it may seem
Profile Image for Ruthy lavin.
431 reviews
January 8, 2021
I LOVED this book!
If you are a fan of the Amazon TV show ‘Viking’s’ - you will love this story!
It is so wonderfully visual, i felt as though I was watching an episode of Viking’s.
Really well researched and a great story from start to finish, this is hard to categorise but so worth a read.
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