Wednesday, 29 April 2020

Book Review: Viking Age Iceland by Jessie Byock (History/Culture/Non-Fiction)

Title: Viking Age Iceland
Author: Jessie Byock
Publisher:
Penguin
Publication Date: 2002
Pages:
448
Format:
Paperback
Genre:
History/Culture/Non-Fiction
Source:
Birthday Gift

 


Medieval Iceland was unique amongst Western Europe, with no foreign policy, no defence forces, no king, no lords, no peasants and few battles. It should have been a utopia yet its literature is dominated by brutality and killing. The reasons for this, argues Jesse Byock, lie in the underlying structures and cultural codes of the islands' social order. Viking Age Iceland is an engaging, multi-disciplinary work bringing together findings in anthropology and ethnography interwoven with historical fact and masterful insights into the popular Icelandic sagas, this is a brilliant reconstruction of the inner workings of a unique and intriguing society. 


Viking Age Iceland was an interesting read. I enjoyed the way Byock used a variety of sources, from the sagas to archaeological evidence, to paint a picture of life in Viking-age Iceland. It was a unique approach that mostly worked very well. The only downside was that certain sections felt a little dry, and given that, I think this is a book that will only appeal to those with an existing, deep interest in the topic. General readers may not find it as enjoyable. But if you are a fan of the sagas or are interested in medieval Iceland, this would be a worthwhile text to pick up.

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