The Glass Woman
7 February, 2019
Publisher: Michael Joseph Books
1686, Iceland. A wild, isolated landscape that can swallow a man without so much as a volcanic gasp, where superstitious Icelanders are haunted by all-too-recent memories of witch trials.
Rósa is leaving her home in Skalholt. Betrothed unexpectedly to the mysterious and wealthy Jón Eiríksson, Rosa travels with her new husband to his isolated, windswept village of Stykkisholmur. Here, the villagers are suspicious of outsiders, and seem fearful of Rosa.
Whispers follow Jón around the unexplained death of his first wife, who he buried in secret in the dead of the night. And Rósa has her own suspicions. Refusing to answer any questions about his first wife, Jón instead gives Rosa a small glass figurine, a glass woman.
Rósa feels a presence in the house, and she can’t shake a dread that darkness is coming. She fears she will be its next victim.
The Glass Woman by Caroline Lea is a beautifully written tale of relationships, loneliness, love and tragedy. I really enjoyed this novel because it took me to a chilling, Gothic land and captivated me both by the characters and the stunning settings. Without being told where and when I was, I would have known from Lea’s use of language and total commitment to the landscape.
Rosa is a very interesting character, and I’m not sure if I liked her or not. She had a good sense of honour, leaving her family to marry for their health and safety in winter, but I found that there were two opposing sides to her. I liked her when she travelled to Stykkisholmur from home with Petur, who drew out her sassy side. However, with Pall and Jon, she comes across as very weak and too easily led. I do think that this lends itself well to the novel though, as it makes the historical setting even more real.
I think my favourite character was Katrin, who was a strong woman with honour, but who also looks out for herself and does not let others choose her journey. The male characters all represented various extremes in my opinion; Pall was the poor overlooked man, while Jon the rich tyrant who abused his wealth and power, and Petur who is a savage, but Lea only scraped the surface of his darkness.
The story itself is a very gripping read; just when some authors would have extended the current happenings of a story by another chapter, that is when she introduces/resolves something so that I didn’t feel many natural points during reading where I could just leave the book and not return for more than a few hours. This is a sign of great storytelling.
Overall, The Glass Woman is a striking and beautifully written story which covers many different genres; it is historical, Gothic, romantic and tragic all at once, while building genuine tension throughout. I would recommend this to people who enjoyed The Coffin Path by Katherine Clements, as well as anybody looking for a chilling winter read as the bad weather (hopefully) slips away. Thank you Michael Joseph for my proof copy in exchange for an honest review. 5*.