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Miss Iceland

3.96  ·  Rating details ·  2,974 ratings  ·  470 reviews
Iceland in the 1960s. Hekla is a budding female novelist who was born in the remote district of Dalir. After packing her few belongings, including James Joyces's Ulysses and a Remington typewriter, she heads for Reykjavik with a manuscript buried in her bags. There, she intends to become a writer. Sharing an apartment with her childhood and queer friend Jón John, Hekla com ...more
Paperback, 256 pages
Published June 16th 2020 by Grove Press, Black Cat (first published November 2018)
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Rick Ouellette That's a good question, I wondered about myself because it is not clear. I like to think it's from Hekla's novel, maybe the last page of it. On the pa…moreThat's a good question, I wondered about myself because it is not clear. I like to think it's from Hekla's novel, maybe the last page of it. On the page before that Hekla mentions her book is 238 pages, the same as "Miss Iceland." A nice little puzzle!
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Average rating 3.96  · 
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 ·  2,974 ratings  ·  470 reviews


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Adina
Jun 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
Please do not judge this novel by the pinkish cute cover. The title and the cover are all meant as an irony to the women’s condition in the 1960’ Iceland, where they were expected only to look good and respond positively to the advances of men.

Hotel Silence was the first novel that I’ve read by Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir and it was very different (review here). There, the narrator was a man impoverished by loss who tries to escape life in a country torn by war while here, the main character is an in
...more
Amalia Gkavea
''If I die
Leave the balcony open!''
Farewell, Federico Garcia Lorca


Hekla is a child of the 60s. A young woman full of talent, wit and kindness, a writer, an idealist. An intellectual in a society that tries to take the next step, to open its mind and its heart, to stop discriminating between the ''feminine'' and the ''masculine''. But it is hard. It is hard to live by your own rules. It is hard to be a part of a society that believes you're ''whining'' when all you do is state your views and sho
...more
Elyse  Walters
Jun 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
There is so much I want to share - I’m ACHING!!!!!!
Guess, I just need to rant a minute....
Here goes>>>>>>> LOVE ACHE LOVE ACHE LOVE ACHE LOVE ACHE ....
TEARS....I’m trying to type through tears....
I can’t express enough the impact this book has on me....GOD, I’M SOOOOOOOOOO GLAD I READ IT!
Thank you, thank you, thank you: Audur Ave Olafsdottir, Grove Atlantic, and Netgalley!!!!!! BIG TIME THANK YOU!!!!!

Perhaps it’s our pandemic, [ GRIEVING for and with our families, friends, and communities, with
...more
Liz
May 10, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: netgalley
This book reminds you how much has changed in the space of 60 years. Hekla moves to Reykjavik to try and make her way as a novelist. She moves in with her queer friend, Jon John. She is faced with the limitations of her sex and he by his sexual preference. “We kept each other’s secrets. We were equals.”
This book tugs at my heartstrings. It’s not just how the men at the dining room treat Hekla, but more importantly how her poet boyfriend treats her like she’s nothing but a pretty face and a muse.
...more
Dolors
Jul 10, 2020 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Those with a taste for quiet storytelling
Recommended to Dolors by: Elyse Walters
This is a novel that won’t appeal to all readers, although it did to me.
Iceland in the 60s. A young woman, Hekla, called after a volcano, is an aspiring writer who leaves her hometown hoping to become a novelist and get her works published in a world dominated by men. John Jón, her gay best friend, welcomes her in Reykjavik and together they struggle to be valued for their artistic qualities rather than their gender or sexual orientation.

Ólafsdóttir’s narration is far from conventional. Told in
...more
Carolyn
May 19, 2020 rated it really liked it
Iceland in the 1960s was a difficult time to be an aspiring female writer. With a harsh, but beautiful landscape built from fire and ice, it was also isolated and male dominated with few options for women apart from menial, underpaid work or marriage and motherhood. A land of many writers, but only men who were allowed to consider themselves as poets and writers with a sparsity of female authors. For Hekla, named for a volcano, writing is all she lives for but she keeps it a secret from all but ...more
Neale
Nov 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
The novel opens in Iceland in 1942. Because of his love and Passion for volcanos the protagonist of this novel is named by her father after a volcano. Hekla, is an active volcano in the south west of Iceland and also according to her father a beautiful name for a little baby girl.

Four and a half years after Hekla is born the volcano that shares her name erupts after lying dormant for over a century. Hekla’s (the baby, not the volcano) father is in rapturous ecstasy. He knows that most volcano en
...more
Meike
May 17, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2020-read, iceland
Prix Médicis étranger (Best Foreign Novel) 2019
The cutesy cover doesn't do the book justice: One of the most famous female novelists working in Iceland today, Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir, has written a book about the patriarchal, conservative Icelandic society of the early 1960's, centering on two women who are writers, but aren't taken seriously as such. Our protagonist and narrator is Hekla (named after the volcano, of course) who hails from the rural West and comes to Reykjavik to get a job, live
...more
Cheri
Jul 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
4.5 Stars

A new author for me, set in a place I’ve never personally seen, although I’ve seen photographs that friends of mine took when they were in Reykjavik on business trips, the year for the main story is 1963, a year when much of the world was seeing changes. Changes in fashion, changes in music, and changes – at least in America – in politics, in the dreams to end racism, as well as relatively new visions for women about their own future. It was the year that four young men from Liverpool b
...more
Ines
Dec 20, 2019 rated it it was ok
I would say that for this is book there is just a NO,I let myself be convinced after listening to an online podcast of literature and book advices, maybe it is better that I continue with my eclectic method to choose from.
It’s a NO book because the narrative is dry, super synthetic, direct.... sometimes it seems to be in a manual for use's instructions and the narration in first person is really heavy.
The most annoying aspect is this jump from one story to an other of the various characters, wi
...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Hekla is a writer living in Iceland in the 1960s but because she is a woman, everyone around her keeps trying to tuck her back into more traditional roles of wife and mother. She is beautiful and pursued relentlessly by men who want her to compete to be Miss Iceland with somewhat questionable promises. The other key characters are her father, who is obsessed with volcanoes so much so that she is named after one and their conversations and gifts tend to revolve around whichever volcano is current ...more
Lisa
Mar 01, 2021 rated it really liked it
This slim, melancholic novel set in 1960s Iceland has lodged under my skin. The narrator, Hekla, is a writer who searches for freedom in a stultifying environment. Her matter-of-fact narration exposes little of her inner world but we learn of her through others - her gay friend Jon, her best friend Isey, her poet lover. And the ending - Wow.
Antoinette
Jan 22, 2021 rated it really liked it
I certainly seem to be on a roll reading about repressed women. This book takes place in the 1960’s, in Reykjavik, Iceland. Hekla, named after a volcano (interesting how they choose names for their kids), has moved to Reykjavik to find work and to pursue her dream of writing. She meets a poet, who is as of yet unsuccessful. She does not tell him she is a writer as well. We are at a time where women’s place is in the kitchen, where she is subservient to her male partner, where his needs and wants ...more
Moonkiszt
Miss Iceland

Wear a sweater and your Uggs when reading this lovely book. The characters are quirky, unexpected and in a place that is as foreign to me as may be possible, despite the DNA connection I have to the North Countries. Surrounded by sea and sharing acreage with active volcanoes, Hekla and Jon John are attempting what many do – they run away to somewhere foreign to see if they can fit in there. Both have a few hot spots of friendship, but none that can sustain, only distract them. Throug
...more
Marianne
Apr 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
4.5★s
“Eternity isn’t within my reach. Compared to you, Hekla, who are the daughter of a volcano and the Arctic sea, I am the daughter of hillock and heath!”

Miss Iceland is a novel by Icelandic author, Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir. It is translated from Icelandic by Brian Fitzgibbon. She was delivered by the local vet and named after a volcano, quite against her mother’s wishes, by her volcano-mad father. Her mother later said of Hekla: “that there needs to be… chaos in the soul to be able to give birth
...more
Story
I really enjoyed this novel, set in 1963 Reykjavik, about an aspiring young author and her gay best friend who leave their rural community with hopes of finding a place to be themselves in a sexist and homophobic world. Though the flat, understated prose took me a while to get used to, it soon became clear that much of the story was taking place between the lines and was filled with dark humour and a surprising amount of tension.

Recommended for lovers of international literature and anyone with
...more
Krista
2.5 stars rounded down to 2 stars

I was so optimistic about this book. It is a work of historical fiction (set in the 1960’s). It is set in Iceland. It centers on a woman who has an internal compulsion to write. Three Strikes, ‘You’re In’. I quickly added it to my NetGalley reading queue. Despite those things that attracted me to this book, it just fell a bit flat for me.

We meet Hekla as she takes the bus from her small village to move to Reykjavik. Upon arriving in Reykjavik, she initially move
...more
Whitney
Jul 25, 2020 rated it it was ok
Overall: I really wanted and tried to like this one, but it just fell flat.. barely finished it and the writing is what kept me going 2/5

Summary: Set in 1963 Reykjavík we follow the story of the heroine, Hekla. Named after a volcano and a woman before her time, Hekla is a strong and interesting character with dreams of being a writer. Unfortunately, during the time this book takes place men think Hekla's place is in a beauty pageant rather than following her drive.

The Good: Beautiful writing-
...more
Diane S ☔
Aug 18, 2020 rated it really liked it
3.5. Thoughts soon.
Jocelyn
Mar 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: ebooks, arc-s
Don't let the whimsical cover and writing style fool you, this book packs a serious punch within its short pages. It's a meandering story that follows Hekla as she tries to pursue a writing career in mid-20th century Iceland.

The book is written in a detached way, only letting us get glimpses of Hekla and the cast of characters in her life. These glimpses do tell us a lot about them, though. Her best friend is a self-loathing homosexual man who is at constant war with himself over his attraction
...more
Abbie | ab_reads
(#gifted @pushkin_press) I was pleasantly surprised by this refreshing historical fiction novel set in Iceland during the 1960s! I've not read anything from any Icelandic authors before, and really don't know much about the country except that the landscape looks beautiful 🙈 But in Miss Iceland we see a different side to the usual tranquil nature and Northern Lights - rather, we see a tight-knit community that is proud of its literary heritage and yet resistant to change.
.
One such change is wome
...more
Fei
Dec 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Coup de coeur.

A beautiful and poetic writing that transports us to Iceland in the 60s, grey and cold, patriarchal, homophobic but this book is also about feminism, hope, freedom and literature <3
I didn't know what to expect when I started this book, I was very surprised but charmed.

+ This book made me want to look at Icelandic literature even more!
...more
Allison
Nov 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this story that followed mainly Hekla, but also two of her friends in their effort to find solid footing in the world as outsiders for varying reasons. I missed that my familiarity with the Icelandic alphabet has disintegrated such that I don’t think I pronounce place names correctly anymore.

Thanks to NetGalley for the advance copy.

//The different version covers are fascinating; the English version is my least favorite.
Michelle
May 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A delightful, wry glimpse of the creative life of a young woman in Iceland in the 60s. The protagonist is a talented writer who diligently and quietly does the work of writing (not to mention waitressing) while the pretentious male poets in her circle sit around in cafes talking about writing without getting anything done. When her boyfriend discovers that she is a well-published writer herself, he can barely handle the comparison. A comic send-up of a certain brand of artistic ego that many wom ...more
Lulufrances
Feb 21, 2021 rated it really liked it
Reasons to read this book:
- It's set in Iceland. Not only that, but Iceland in the Sixties; one of my favourite decades. (And the vibes are strong!)
- Hekla the female protagonist, named after a volcano, is a young woman that can't be messed with: love it! She's also pursuing her dream of being a writer wholeheartedly and will not be deterred, that's some extra motivation for all of us working on our dreams (or essays for uni) at the moment.
- Ólafsdóttir's writing is beautiful and filled with lit
...more
Daniel
Mar 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This review originally published in Looking For a Good Book. Rated 5.0 of 5

So many of the books I have read lately have been written in a best-seller style ... written with the intention of capturing attention and holding on to the reader with lots of exciting action and intrigue. And by reading so much of this, I'd gotten into a bit of a flow - a reading pattern - so that when I started this book, I was caught off-guard and actually not very interested right away. But about a quarter of the way
...more
Sharon Metcalf
Jul 11, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2020
Having been compelled to read Miss Iceland by Ava Ólafsdóttir following the enthusiastic five star review of a GR friend my expectations were possibly overly inflated.     Having waited a few days before writing my own review it's fair to say I enjoyed this book but in a quiet and understated kind of way.     Once finished I was easily able to move on and rarely reflected on the story or the characters any further.   

This was the story of Hekla, a young lady in her early twenties.   Set in Icel
...more
Darragh
Interesting, experimental, but ultimately disappointing.

(Also the cover design of the English translation is awful for what this book is.)
Ken Fredette
Nov 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Kennedy
This was definitely a different book than I originally expected and it took me a little while to get into it. One major problem that prevented me from loving this book was the story skipped around so much I didn’t know what was happening. The dialogue was too much and I felt like, by the end, I knew a lot about the narrator but also knew nothing. Something I loved though was the take on LGBTQ relationships during that time. It was a serious issue to tackle and I thought the author did a great jo ...more
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English Translati...: Audur Ava Olafsdottir - Miss Iceland 1 16 Nov 08, 2019 02:10PM  

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Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir was born in Iceland in 1958, studied art history in Paris and has lectured in History of Art at the University of Iceland. Her earlier novel, The Greenhouse (2007), won the DV Culture Award for literature and was nominated for the Nordic Council Literature Award. She currently lives and works in Reykjavik.

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