If you have been following my blog over the past few months you might know that I have been on the hunt for some brilliant travel writing. Inspired by my love of Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert, I have been looking for something that will introduce me to new places. Along the way I have come across some not so great travel writing (read some other reviews here and here) but when I saw Names For The Sea on one of the travel writing tables in Waterstones, I was hopeful. I have never been to Iceland but many of my friends have and I was intrigued about a place that is both geographically and culturally different to the UK, but is relatively close. I am also excited by the thought of constant light in summer time, though constant darkness in winter makes me feel like a nervous wreck. This book sat in the pile by my bed for a few weeks, waiting until after assessments had been handed in and before the rush to complete my dissertation would hit. Two days of beautiful English sunshine allowed me to sit in the back garden for hours, in need of something lighter to read. So, I picked up Names For The Sea and I am very glad that I did.
Sarah Moss is married with two young children, working in an English university as a lecturer while her husband stays home with their children. She wants a change and so takes up a year long post at the university in Reykjavik. From the moment the family arrives cultural differences appear, from the housing available, to the unique Icelandic perspective on second hand goods and the food that is available in supermarkets. What follows is a range of challenges to integrate into Icelandic life and enjoy the year.
Moss has a fantastic narrative voice, I felt as though I was there with the family realising just how far from home they were. Moss is able to overcome her own shyness as a foreigner to seek out stories of ‘old Iceland’. She also has a unique perspective as a university lecturer and a mother as she is able to compare education in Iceland to home, while also asking students about their own insights into life in Iceland.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It is rich in research and gives so much information about Icelandic history, culture, geography and politics whilst also being a really enjoyable and fast paced read. I couldn’t put it down because each section of the book offered something new and intriguing, from folk lore to knitting, nursery education to food. I would definitely like to read more of Moss’s writing, including her novels, but this has also pushed me to find more travel writing. A wonderful book I can see myself reading again and passing on to many friends and family!