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Publisher's Summary

Pulitzer Prize winner and best-selling author Jane Smiley's The Greenlanders is an enthralling novel in the epic tradition of the old Norse sagas.

Set in the 14th century in Europe's most farflung outpost, a land of glittering fjords, blasting winds, sun-warmed meadows, and high, dark mountains, The Greenlanders is the story of one family - proud landowner Asgeir Gunnarsson; his daughter Margret, whose willful independence leads her into passionate adultery and exile; and his son Gunnar, whose quest for knowledge is at the compelling center of this unforgettable audiobook. Jane Smiley takes us into this world of farmers, priests, and lawspeakers, of hunts and feasts and long-standing feuds, and by an act of literary magic, makes a remote time, place, and people not only real but dear to us.

©1988 Jane Smiley (P)2014 Audible Inc.

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

Retelling the sagas in a floundering land

What did you like best about The Greenlanders? What did you like least?

Jane Smiley claimed she "chanelled" the writing here and produced a tale very much like the Old Norse sagas. That is, she shears it of overt characterization and literary ornament. It's an admirable ambition, but I am glad I read Njal's and Egil's sagas first to get the flavor.

Unfortunately, the result is numbing. It's epic in size but not in energy. The people come and go, but little grasp remains for the listener of who's who, and it's difficult to care much. I wanted lots more about the decline of Greenland's Norse settlers, but it's vague; wrapped up in accusations of witchcraft, convincing in theory, but not as a fictional pageturner.

Has The Greenlanders turned you off from other books in this genre?

I doubt if there are other books in this genre. Only "Wayward Heroes" by Halldor Laxness to my knowledge represents for a wider audience a literary-minded author taking this theme up.

What does Ralph Lister bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

I liked his ravings as Loras the crazed prophet late on. This was one time the voices came alive. He tries his best, but over so long a trek, it's hard to make this material exciting enough

Did The Greenlanders inspire you to do anything?

To find out more about the real Viking and later Norse contexts, as Jesse Byock has shown in Iceland. It also led me to seek out Neil Gaiman's retelling of Norse myth, a subject I knew nearly nothing about. So, while the tale itself lagged, the medievalist in me found inspiration.

Any additional comments?

Smiley tried in "Ten Days in the Hills" to retell Boccaccio's "Decameron." She did not succeed, but she at least has the legacy of a medieval literature Ph.D. to give her ideas. I read her big book about ways of looking at fiction similarly. She never draws me in, however.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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First-rate! You will be transported

Jane Smiley has created a marvelous saga of Greenland which allows the reader access to an unforgettable world. One learns what the people of Greenland ate, how they managed (or not) in extreme weather conditions, and how they thought. The novel takes place around the year 1400. There is drama on every page!

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    2 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

Very dissapointing

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

I started listening to this but it has been written in an old style, and it is like listening to an old priest read from the old testament without any emotion at all. The history of the Greenlanders is such an interesting one, and I did think that it may pick up a bit, but 27 hours of listening is too much. Even for me. I traditionally listen to books while in my studio painting, and find I can listen to almost anything, especially rather dry and overwhelmingly long books, as the story keeps my mind occupied while I work. But this didnt do that for me at all. Listeners who appreciate old testament style writing may love it. I switched over to The Story of the Volsungs, which is the same story but has been delivered in a more interesting manner.

What was most disappointing about Jane Smiley’s story?

The language and style of writing

How could the performance have been better?

More emotion and excitment

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  • tracy allen
  • 02-19-18

Epic, intimate and transporting

This book is something of a hard sell. An epic tale of medieval Greenland as the climate changes and society starts to fail. For ages I couldn't face it but actually it is fantastic. It has a compelling story, sympathetic and beautifully realized characters and it's an amazing piece of writing- it's epic, intimate and will transport you to a different world. Think 'Some Luck' in 14th century Greenland. The style takes a little getting used to but stick with it, it's great.

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    2 out of 5 stars
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  • Peter
  • 04-04-16

The Greenlanders

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

Everything

Has The Greenlanders put you off other books in this genre?

Just the author and narrator

Any additional comments?

Very disappointed, couldn't get into the book at all, neither the storyline nor the narrator, I managed about half an hour and put it away in disgust.

0 of 6 people found this review helpful