The Sorrow Stone
University of Queensland Press, $32.99 pb, 240 pp
In his extraordinary journey through Iceland’s history, Saga Land (2017, with Richard Fidler), Kári Gíslason described Icelanders as ‘being reserved’ and ‘a bit severe’ at first glance, likening them to the Hallgrímskirkja church that looms over Reykjavik with its enormous basalt column wings and stony façade. The first three days I spent alone in that city gave me a wholly different impression of its people. On my first day there in 2013, I was greeted by what appeared to be most of the city’s population lined up on the Lækjargata strip waving flags, smiling from ear to ear, and dancing as the annual Gay Pride parade rolled by in all its garish joy. The following night, as I chomped on one of Iceland’s famous hot dogs from a van by the waterfront, a young woman, soused to high heaven, threw her arms around my neck and yelled ‘I luff you!’ in my ear until her friends, doubled over with laughter, dragged her away. The morning after, in a souvenir store, the young man behind the counter asked me where I was from. When I answered ‘Australia’, a dark cloud crossed his face and he mumbled, ‘Oh, my girlfriend left me for an Australian’, as he daintily popped my little model fishing boat in a paper bag.