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The Blue Fox by Sjon (thoughts)

November 29, 2012


I’ve had a lot of fun in the past couple of years getting to know Scandivanian literature. The wonderful thing about being new to a reading genre or region is that there are so many excellent books to discover! The Blue Fox by Sjon has been on my radar ever since Claire’s post in 2009 (miss you Claire!). In fact, I even ILLed it, but sadly it arrived during a flare-up so I didn’t get to read it before having to return it. Tony’s more recent post inspired me to request it again, and this time I started it as soon I got home from the library!

It’s a slim novel, and it’s made even slimmer by a layout that sometimes has just a few sentences on a page, which makes it perfect for a quiet afternoon. The setting is a nineteenth century Icelandic winter, so along with a pot of tea and cozy blanket, this would be a lovely seasonal read. It’s difficult to talk about shorter books without giving too much away, but I will say that Sjon weaves Icelandic folklore and a bit of magical realism into a kind of puzzle plot. His writing style is evocative, and the landscapes rose up in front me as I read. I love a strong sense of place, and The Blue Fox definitely delivers. I also loved the fable quality.

While I certainly enjoyed this book, I will say that for me it was a four star read instead of a five star for certain gender issues. This will be a vague spoiler, for those who don’t like to know anything, but I’m just a bit tired of authors who use the rape and sexual abuse of women/girls as a plot device, especially as a motive for male characters, when the book isn’t really about that. It seems unimaginative and a bit lazy. That being said, I will be reading more of Sjon in the future, just with my fingers crossed that the gender problems in The Blue Fox aren’t echoed in his other novels.

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. November 29, 2012 7:24 am

    I won’t read that stuff. I just can’t take it.

  2. November 29, 2012 7:32 am

    I really liked the feel and style of this little book – I too have got to know and love Scandinavian literature, although I didn’t know that Iceland counted – and I think I have another by him somewhere…

  3. November 29, 2012 3:42 pm

    I have to get to this at some point have read his others and really hope his ww2 based trilogy gets published it sounds very quirky ,all the best stu

  4. December 2, 2012 12:57 pm

    I’m not sure if I have ever read anything by an Icelandic writer… I have started reading some novels, but for one reason or another have not finished them. Sjon is an interesting writer, though, and I really should read The Blue Fox. He won the Nordic Council’s Literary Prize with it in 2005.

    And stricktly speaking Iceland, as well as Finland, is not part of Scandinavia. :) Nordic Country yes, Scandinavia no. In every day speech we often mix those two even here, though -and especially if we are speaking English:)

  5. December 11, 2012 6:01 am

    As you’ve signed up for the *Tea & Books Reading Challenge* on my blog, here’s just a little reminder that you’ve still got three more weeks to finish the challenge!
    Latest Update Post (plus Giveaway, yay) can be found here:

    http://the-book-garden.blogspot.com/2012/12/tea-books-reading-challenge-giveaway.html

  6. December 23, 2012 2:50 pm

    Oh I agree with what you said about violence towards women as a plot device. I’m just dipping into the Scandi-crime genre and I’m going to be very selective about what I read. Hoping to get some good recommendations from your blog.

  7. January 4, 2013 7:22 pm

    I absolutely loved The Blue Fox and reviewed it 3 years ago:

    http://freshinkbooks.blogspot.ca/2009/04/thursday-tea_09.html

    I have accepted the fact that a story anywhere in the 19th century is going to reflect attitudes (about race, gender, etc.) that I don’t approve of. Unhappily it so often reflects the actual history of the times. I can’t let it bother me too much or I’d be steamed about it (unhealthy that) all the time. But I understand why you would feel that way.
    I’ve recently purchased From the Mouth of the Whale and The Whispering News (pending delivery) and look forward to reading those too. I’ll add your link to my review if you don’t mind. We’ve got to spread the word about his man’s writing. Lovely to see you back, I ‘ve been more ill than usual for several months and just started posting again myself. Take care.

    • January 5, 2013 1:43 am

      Oh, I want to make it clear that my issue wasn’t with the characters’ views! I read all kinds of fiction featuring unsavoury attitudes, and I love a lot of classic authors whose opinions were definitely of their times.

      My problem was with the contemporary author’s decision to make the plot hang around rape without giving the victim any kind of voice. I felt like it took objectification of women to the next level, by objectifying violence against women and using it as nothing but a tool to explain the male characters’ motives. It also felt a bit stale as a motivator, which surprised me since everything else about the book was so excellent. I hope I made myself a bit clearer.

      I do intend to read some more of Sjon, and you’re welcome to link to me! I’m sorry you’ve been having health issues as well and I hope you keep feeling better & being able to post. I do love your blog!

Thank you for commenting! For a long while, my health precluded me replying to everyone. Yet I missed the conversation, so I'm now making an effort to reply again. It might take a few days though, and there will be times when I simply can't. Regardless, I always read and value what you say.

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