The Glass Woman by Caroline Lea
1686, ICELAND. AN ISOLATED, WINDSWEPT LAND HAUNTED BY WITCH TRIALS AND STEEPED IN THE ANCIENT SAGAS.
Betrothed unexpectedly to Jón Eiríksson, Rósa is sent to join her new husband in the remote village of Stykkishólmur. Here, the villagers are wary of outsiders.
But Rósa harbours her own suspicions. Her husband buried his first wife alone in the dead of night. He will not talk of it. Instead he gives her a small glass figurine. She does not know what it signifies.
The villagers mistrust them both. Dark threats are whispered. There is an evil here – Rósa can feel it. Is it her husband, the villagers – or the land itself?
Alone and far from home, Rósa sees the darkness coming. She fears she will be its next victim . . .
The cover stole my breath before I even read the synopsis & then there are the end-pages. Gosh. Excuse me while I gush over the cover because it’s worth every word of praise. I might try to use some pics here to show how gorgeous the cover is.
Now, let’s move to the actual book. Set in 1686, Iceland, this book starts with Rósa and her mother almost on the verge of starving to death when the goði of Stykkishólmur, Jón Eiríksson proposes marriage to Rósa. Stykkishólmur is a remote village but Jón is very rich and he assures Rósa that he will look after her mother. And so, Rósa is betrothed while her heart yearns for another quietly. She gets married and is taken to her husband’s village by Pétur, her husband’s friend. As she reaches her new home, she realises a few things and almost all of them unwelcome. The villagers might depend on Jón but they don’t like him, there are far too many rules set by her new husband for her. He expects obedience and she gets the feeling that she better does as she’s told if she’s to live unharmed.
Alone and frightened in an isolated home, she starts hearing noises from the forbidden loft (one of the places she’s explicitly told not to go to) and then there are the rumours of Jón’s first wife to add to her fears and miseries. Rósa tries her best to try & understand Jón. She’s often left wondering about her husband and his personality. Is he really just a reserved but good man or is he a man capable of murder? Enough to murder his own wife? All these questions haunt her in her day to day life and her isolation from people makes her even more anxious and wary of Jón. When even the village women warn her to be on Jón’s good side, Rósa starts to fear for her well-being.
Filled to brim with atmospheric writing and a true sense of claustrophobia despite the story being set in the wide open spaces of Iceland. With a very Jane Eyre-esque sounding plot, it is just as haunting and at times, Rósa’s isolation and her fear felt very much my own. I suppose it didn’t help that I read this book during a weekend when it was rained as if there was no tomorrow. The land and the season felt as much a part of the story as any of the characters and I absolutely love books like that.
Rósa as a character didn’t make an impact on me in the first few pages but as the story progress I really felt for her. The mystery of why Jón is the way he is and what really happened to his first wife was just plain sad to read. Also the end made me cry, just a little bit.
If you are a fan of Jane Eyre or Rebecca or of atmospheric, historical dark mysteries then this is definitely a book for you.