Independent People by Halldór Laxness / ISBN 9781841593975 / 501-page hardback from Everyman's Library / discounted copies with a remainder dot and minor wear
Set in the early decades of the twentieth century, Independent People is a masterly realist novel evoking in rich detail a family and a rural community struggling to survive in the starkest of landscapes. At the same time it is infused with an intense awareness of Iceland's saga tradition and folklore. Bjartur of Summerhouses is a hard and sometimes cruel man, but his flinty determination to achieve independence is both genuinely heroic and bleakly comic. Having spent eighteen years in humiliating servitude before managing to purchase an isolated piece of land rumoured to be cursed, Bjartur wants nothing more than to tend his flocks unbeholden to any man. But his daughter wants to live unbeholden to him, and what ensues is a battle of wills that is by turns harsh and touching, elemental in its emotional intensity and intimate in its homely detail. An utterly compelling read.