By Audur Ava Ólafsdóttir (translated by Brian FitzGibbon)
I found this book compelling in a beautifully slow, artful way. Author Audur Ava Ólafsdóttir managed to keep me entranced. This was nothing like the fast-paced thrillers I usually find myself reading. Instead, it was a gentle story about a 49-year-old Icelandic man, Jónas, who decides it is time to end his life. He sees no point in carrying on with what he now regards as a pointless existence. To spare his daughter (who he has recently discovered is not his biological daughter) having to deal with his suicide, he travels to an unnamed country, now at truce, but bearing the severe scars of prolonged warfare. I was hugely disappointed when he left Iceland as I had wanted to read this book because of where I thought it was set. (I adored Burial Rites by Hannah Kent, and have been after books set in Iceland ever since!) However, the new country proves the perfect destination for Jonas. The desperate lives of the survivors who hadn’t fled the war provide a stark contrast to Jonas’ own, and act as a catalyst for him to re-assess. I loved the writing style, (this was a great English translation); it was terse without being staccato, the author not wasting words on lyrical descriptions. I had to use my imagination to get into the heart and soul of the characters and their surroundings because not too much detail was divulged. And when an author inspires me to do that, he or she has written a great book in my opinion.
JÓNAS FEELS LIKE HIS LIFE IS OVER.
His wife has left him, his mother is slipping deeper into dementia, and his daughter is no longer who he thought. So he comes up with a foolproof plan: to buy a one-way ticket to a chaotic, war-ravaged country and put an end to it all.
But on arriving at Hotel Silence, he finds his plans – and his anonymity – begin to dissolve under the foreign sun. Now there are other things that need his attention, like the crumbling hotel itself, the staff who run it, and his unusual fellow guests. And soon it becomes clear that Jónas must decide whether he really wants to leave it all behind; or give life a second chance, albeit down a most unexpected path…