Saturday 12 December 2020

Book Review: Magma by Thóra Hjörleifsdóttir (Contemporary Fiction)

Title: Magma
Author: Thóra Hjörleifsdóttir
Publisher: Grove Atlantic
Publication Date: 13 July 2021
eBook - PDF
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Source: ARC via NetGalley

Twenty-year-old Lilja is in love. As a young university student, she is quickly smitten with the intelligent, beautiful young man from school who quotes Derrida and reads Latin and cooks balanced vegetarian meals. Before she even realizes, she’s moved in with him, living in his cramped apartment, surrounded by sour towels and flat Diet Cokes. As the newfound intimacy of sharing a shower and a bed fuels her desire to please her partner, his quiet and pervasive manipulations start to unravel her.
In an era of pornification, his acts of nearly imperceptible abuse continue to mount as their relationship develops. Lilja wants to hold onto him, take care of him and be the perfect lover. But in order to do so, she gradually lets go of her boundaries and concurrently starts to lose her sense of self.
With astounding clarity and restraint, Hjörleifsdóttir sheds light on the commonplace undercurrents of violence that so often go undetected in romantic relationships. She deftly illustrates the failings of our culture in recognizing symptoms of cruelty, and in powerful, poetic prose depicts the unspooling of a tender-hearted woman desperate to love well. 


Magma was a compelling tale that I read in a single sitting. The relationship between Lilja and her boyfriend is clearly abusive, yet she cannot see that herself and justifies everything that happens as being her own fault. This is a powerful work despite its outward simplicity and highlights how easy it is for a violent relationship to continue unchecked. Hjörleifsdóttir doesn't shy away from harsh reality in her portrayal of her characters, and as such this is a work some readers may want to approach with caution. Overall, though, she delivers a strong and important message through her story, which is a scathing commentary as much as it is a work of fiction.

I received this book as a free eBook ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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