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, in 2001, a team of scientists discovered what may have been this pioneering woman’s last house, buried under a hay field in Iceland, just where the sagas suggested it could be.
Joining scientists experimenting with cutting-edge technology and the latest archaeological techniques, and tracing Gudrid’s steps on land and in the sagas, Nancy Marie Brown reconstructs a life that spanned – and expanded – the bounds of the then-known world. She also sheds new light on the society that gave rise to a woman even more extraordinary than legend has painted her and illuminates the reason for its collapse.
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. We are based in Iceland and journey with Nancy and Gudrid over the icy seas to the New World.
I will admint to being held spell-bound all the way through, both by the archaelogical findings, and by the vivid bringing to life of Gudrid. Even more so, because though I didn’t realise it at the time of purchasing, it does actually concern the woman featured in another of my all-time favourite – and one of the most beautifully written – books about the Vikings and the sagas of the New World, The Sea Road by Margaret Elphinstone. If you pretend to have any kind of interest, passing or other wise, you cannot be taken seriously if you haven’t read both of these books.
Just as I was left stunned at the majesty of The Sea Road, I am left equally thoughtful, by the closing lines of this one. I was going to quote them, but I’ll leave you to discover and enjoy them for yourselves.
And, my (perhaps) one and two Viking books both written by women. Well, there you go.
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