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Publisher's Summary

Iceland, Greenland, Northern Norway, and the Faroe Islands lie on the edges of Western Europe, in an area long portrayed by travelers as remote and exotic - its nature harsh, its people reclusive. Since the middle of the 18th century, however, this marginalized region has gradually become part of modern Europe, a transformation that is narrated in Karen Oslund's Iceland Imagined.

This cultural and environmental history sweeps across the dramatic North Atlantic landscape, exploring its unusual geography, saga narratives, language, culture, and politics, and analyzing its emergence as a distinctive and symbolic part of Europe. The earliest visions of a wild frontier, filled with dangerous and unpredictable inhabitants, eventually gave way to images of beautiful, well-managed lands, inhabited by simple but virtuous people living close to nature. This transformation was accomplished by state-sponsored natural histories of Iceland which explained that the monsters described in medieval and Renaissance travel accounts did not really exist, and by artists who painted the Icelandic landscapes to reflect their fertile and regulated qualities. Literary scholars and linguists who came to Iceland and Greenland in the 19th century related the stories and the languages of the "wild North" to those of their home countries.

Karen Oslund is assistant professor of world history at Towson University in Maryland.

The book is published by University of Washington Press.

"The great contribution of Iceland Imagined is to help us understand the mental geographies that over the past quarter millennium have come to define the North Atlantic - and that teach us more than we might think about the rest of the world." (from the Foreword by William Cronon)

©2011 the University of Washington Press (P)2012 Redwood Audiobooks

Critic Reviews

"An excellent work, covering unusual ground. Not only does Iceland Imagined nicely chart important historical contours in the North Atlantic region, it offers numerous useful and original observations on themes in history, anthropology, literature, and linguistics." (Gisli Palsson, University of Iceland)
"The great contribution of Iceland Imagined is to help us understand the mental geographies that over the past quarter millennium have come to define the North Atlantic - and that teach us more than we might think about the rest of the world." (from the Foreword by William Cronon)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • David
  • Chicago, IL, United States
  • 04-13-15

Good information poorly presented

The author, Karen Oslund, clearly knows what she's talking about where Iceland is concerned. There are many facts put forward in this book on a number of different facets of Iceland's history and culture. However the information is presented in such a bland, factual, narrative-free manner as to make the book almost impossible to listen to. This is not helped by the fact that the narrator seems as bored reading the words as I was listening to them. The presentation is as flat on her voice as the words are on the page.

If you want to know more about Iceland, find something else. I recommend The Modern Scholar: The Norsemen, Understanding Vikings and their Culture. The lecturer is dynamic, funny, and presents a condensed history of Iceland that was so enjoyable I listened to it twice in one weekend, and parts of it three times.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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A book you need before you go to Iceland

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Absolutely. It gives a good background of Iceland and the North Atlantic, dispelling some myths and misconceptions along the way.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • BM
  • 10-17-17

Iceland in context; breadth and depth

This is a very interesting and thorough look at Iceland in its historical, cultural and regional context. It is dense, in a good way, and will appeal to people who would like to learn about this fascinating country and its broader region analytically through a range of aspects. The narration good. It is in a calm, clear, voice, with just the right amount of inflection. I'm glad I did not let the other, negative reviews deter me from buying this audio book.

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Dry and rambling. Academic.

This might be a good book for people studying the history and culture of Iceland but by no means intended for visitors. Much of it is spent describing tangentially related subjects.

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  • Tom S.
  • Park City, Utah
  • 05-15-15

Mish mosh and academic gobbledygook

What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

My wife and I are going to Iceland this year, so this book should have been a good backgrounder for our trip. It was terrible. I don't know how it got published, let alone recorded as an audio-book.<br/><br/>It had thousands of worthless facts and no useful information. I did not learn anything useful or interesting about the Icelandic people or their country.<br/><br/>History should be a story, not a recitation of random facts and academic references. There is nothing that could have improved this book short of a different author.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Hard to listen to

What disappointed you about Iceland Imagined: Nature, Culture, and Storytelling in the North Atlantic?

This book was dry. Very difficult to get through. Disappointing. The narrator did her best to make the boo interesting, just had nothing to work with.

What do you think your next listen will be?

Not sure

What didn’t you like about Cynthia Wallace’s performance?

She did her best with challenging material

You didn’t love this book... but did it have any redeeming qualities?

I just wanted it to end. I was hoping to get some color on Iceland. What I received was a doctoral thesis.

0 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Janet
  • 04-08-15

Too much about language, not personal enough !

Not what I wanted to find out about Iceland! Horses and sheep!!!
No personal stories. Not for the potential traveller

1 of 2 people found this review helpful