Historical fiction

Be Still the Water by Karen Emilson

I sometimes kick myself for waiting too long before getting to read a book properly. This was one of the cases. If I have learnt anything from this experience (which I hope I have), I will try to be as patient with all those other books languishing on my virtual shelf! This is a saga (in more ways than one, I found when I googled the exact meaning). It traces a family who migrate to Canada in search of a brighter future from Iceland. This is the early 1900s and there are mass migrations, most of them welcome. They are almost the start of civilizations in many places. The story focuses on one family, and one individual in particular within that family. We watch Asta looking back at her life trying to make sense of a couple of things she feels that are left unfinished. Hindsight provides her with more clarity and understanding of all the things that she has been through in her life. Some questions continue to nag her, we hunt for answers along with her. I put the book down initially because I was a little confused by the level of detail, but when I started it again, once I got into the groove, it was a fascinating read. I found it interesting to see the dynamics of groups of people who migrated at the same time to the same place from the same place! How they ‘assimilated’ into the local community or created a whole new world. I usually have just one requirement to completely enjoy a tale, it should all be tied up satisfactorily with a big bow on top. This is the only reason I do not give this story a full five stars.The story sticks to a very realistic pattern, and as with life there are no guarantees for everyone to be happy. That said, I have always enjoyed stories of people and their families weathering insurmountable odds and this is one special story with very graphic minute details which made me feel like I have an actual understanding of how life might have been for those pioneering families. It is a big book, but it is totally worth the effort. I am glad I got a chance to read this book thanks to NetGalley and the publishers. This is an unbiased review.

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