The Glass Woman

The Glass Woman

1686, ICELAND. AN ISOLATED, WINDSWEPT LAND HAUNTED BY WITCH TRIALS AND STEEPED IN THE ANCIENT SAGAS.Betrothed unexpectedly to Jón Eiríksson, Rósa is sent to join her new husband in the remote village of Stykkishólmur. Here, the villagers are wary of outsiders.But Rósa harbours her own suspicions. Her husband buried his first wife alone in the dead of night. He will not tal...

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Title:The Glass Woman
Author:Caroline Lea
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The Glass Woman Reviews

  • Liz Barnsley

    Oh I DEVOURED this book. Haunting, chilly, beautifully created, 17th Century Iceland comes alive on the page and you feel for  it’s inhabitants who struggle daily to survive..

    Into this epic landscape comes Rosa, who marries for practical purposes not love and who comes to believe she may be in grave danger from Husband Jon, the death of his first wife being  surrounded by gossip, intrigue and dark mutterings of witchcraft..

    Caroline Lea paints a deeply sinister picture of  Rosa’s new home and dra

    Oh I DEVOURED this book. Haunting, chilly, beautifully created, 17th Century Iceland comes alive on the page and you feel for  it’s inhabitants who struggle daily to survive..

    Into this epic landscape comes Rosa, who marries for practical purposes not love and who comes to believe she may be in grave danger from Husband Jon, the death of his first wife being  surrounded by gossip, intrigue and dark mutterings of witchcraft..

    Caroline Lea paints a deeply sinister picture of  Rosa’s new home and draws you into this relentlessly harsh environment where death is only ever a breath away. Rosa is an amazingly engaging character, fiercely independent internally whilst outwardly projecting obedience, you get totally caught up in her wish to know the secrets hidden from her.

    The whole thing is entirely gorgeously addictive, I found the growing relationship between Rosa and Jon utterly riveting, with  the community around them and it’s suspicious nature both dividing them and drawing them together.

    I won’t give too much away but this is both clever and pitched perfectly, even the mundane day to day tasks are vividly drawn, there is not a single dull moment.

    The Glass Woman is melancholy and heart breaking, a tale to fall into, it is unpredictable and so so good. Loved it.

    Don’t miss it!

    Highly Recommended.

  • Blair

    What better setting for a winter read than Iceland?

    opens with a striking image: a tremor cracks the ice and a body floats to the surface of the sea, arm aloft, 'bone-white fingers waving, as if alive'. It's November 1686 on the western coast of Iceland, and as a group of villagers gathers, a man among them reflects on recent memories. He, we understand, knows the identity of the person under the ice; he put them there.

    The main story, however, takes place months earlier and centr

    What better setting for a winter read than Iceland?

    opens with a striking image: a tremor cracks the ice and a body floats to the surface of the sea, arm aloft, 'bone-white fingers waving, as if alive'. It's November 1686 on the western coast of Iceland, and as a group of villagers gathers, a man among them reflects on recent memories. He, we understand, knows the identity of the person under the ice; he put them there.

    The main story, however, takes place months earlier and centres on a young woman named Rósa. Living in a small, impoverished community, she fears her mother, Sigridúr, will not survive the winter unless she finds a way to pay for extra insulation and food. The solution is marriage to Jón, a wealthy

    (chieftain of a settlement). Their union ensures Sigridúr's safety and comfort. But it also takes Rósa away from her home (and her first love Páll) to live with Jón in Stykkishólmur. There, she finds the villagers suspicious and fearful, whispering about the death of Jón's first wife Anna and warning Rósa against disobeying him.

    Rósa finds her new husband (and his right-hand man Pétur) quietly terrifying. Jón expects her to stay in their croft alone, with nothing to do but housework and Bible study. Then there's the loft space he insists on keeping locked, the creaking floorboards Rósa hears at night, the figure standing beside her bed in the dark...

    is a retelling of 'Bluebeard': this becomes clearer as the story goes on, though Lea strays from the template in pleasing ways. In terms of more contemporary fiction, it has the intrigue and emotional core of

    combined with the setting and atmosphere of

    It also reminded me a little of

    – both feature a recently married woman travelling to her husband's home, only to find it filled with secrets and things that go bump in the night.

    If I were to criticise anything, it would be the length. I'm not entirely convinced that the story needs to be 400 pages long; given the limited nature of a) the setting and b) what Rósa can actually do with her time, some scenes begin to feel repetitive.

    But the payoff is worth it: I was thoroughly captivated throughout and the ending(s) almost made me cry. I loved how

    subverted expectations, particularly how it showed the power of gossip and hearsay in establishing 'facts' (and myths, and, in time, fairytales). In the end, practically nobody in the story plays the role they originally appear to be designed for.

    The Glass Woman

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  • Fiona

    So nearly a 5 star read.

    I was drawn to this novel because it’s set in Iceland, a land and culture that has an endless fascination for me. It’s set in the 17th century and gets off to a slow start. Rosa leaves the love of her life behind to marry a wealthy man who can provide for her ailing mother. From the moment she sets off for Stykkishólmur, where her husband lives, there is a menacing undercurrent and the book quickly becomes a page turner. Rosa’s new husband, Jon, has already lost one wife.

    So nearly a 5 star read.

    I was drawn to this novel because it’s set in Iceland, a land and culture that has an endless fascination for me. It’s set in the 17th century and gets off to a slow start. Rosa leaves the love of her life behind to marry a wealthy man who can provide for her ailing mother. From the moment she sets off for Stykkishólmur, where her husband lives, there is a menacing undercurrent and the book quickly becomes a page turner. Rosa’s new husband, Jon, has already lost one wife. He shows her little affection because really he just needs someone to cook and clean and help him with the farm. There is a loft in the building but it’s kept locked. Rosa imagines she hears someone moving around up there but can’t get in to see. Her husband forbids her to mix with the locals so she quickly feels isolated and frightened.

    To say much more would be to spoil the unfolding of the story. We jump about between months and between different accounts, a good device for keeping our interest and increasing the tension and it works. Why isn’t this a 5 star read then? I didn’t need to read the acknowledgements at the end to know that the author doesn’t really know Iceland. The story could have been set anywhere where remote communities make travel difficult and strangers arouse suspicion. Her first book, which I haven’t read, is set on the island of Jersey where she grew up. I think it’s good advice for authors, especially new ones, to stick to what they know. The Icelandic setting rarely felt authentic and I wasn’t surprised to learn that she has only been there fleetingly, relying mostly on research.

    It’s a good read, however. I really enjoyed the suspense which the author builds up very well. It’s very exciting at times and she tries to address important issues.

    With thanks to NetGalley and Penguin UK / Michael Joseph for a free review copy.

  • Susan

    This historical novel is set in Iceland in 1686. Rosa lives with her mother in a small, isolated community. This is a bleak landscape, where life is hard and existence difficult. While Rosa’s father was alive; a respected member of the community, they lived fairly comfortably – but, with his death, the two quickly struggle. When a stranger appears, the wealthy Jon Eriksson, Rosa ignores her mother’s warnings, as well as her own reluctance, and decides to marry him, in order to help protect her m

    This historical novel is set in Iceland in 1686. Rosa lives with her mother in a small, isolated community. This is a bleak landscape, where life is hard and existence difficult. While Rosa’s father was alive; a respected member of the community, they lived fairly comfortably – but, with his death, the two quickly struggle. When a stranger appears, the wealthy Jon Eriksson, Rosa ignores her mother’s warnings, as well as her own reluctance, and decides to marry him, in order to help protect her mother, who is unwell.

    She travels to the croft of her new husband, prepared to try to be an obedient wife and put aside her dreams of reading and writing. For her parents encouraged her desire to write and she delighted in the sagas and stories of her home. However, the lines between myth and witchcraft are blurred in this world and it is easy to be accused for a false word.

    Rosa’s life with Jon is difficult. Rumours abound about the death of his first wife, she is lonely and her husband does not encourage company, other than Petur, who works with him. The croft has a loft, which is locked and, soon, Rosa believes that her new home is haunted. Suspicious, afraid and nervous of her new husband, she begins to wonder what really happened to the wife who came before her…

    This novel has a wonderful setting and is well written and atmospheric. For me, it read a little like, “Rebecca,” but relocated to another time and place. An enjoyable read, which was perfect for reading with snow swirling outside in a cold January. I received a copy of this book from the publisher, via NetGalley, for review.

  • Renee Godding

    This exceeded my expectations with how great it was.

    Iceland, 1686. Rosa, a village girl from an impoverished family, is send off into a marriage of financial convenience, in order to keep her secure funds for her sick mother to survive the harsh winter. Rosa’s new found life does not come easy however. The small and isolated community of her new home is distrustful and unwelcoming to strangers. Rumors of witchcraft and misdeeds are mumbled around town, seemingly having R

    This exceeded my expectations with how great it was.

    Iceland, 1686. Rosa, a village girl from an impoverished family, is send off into a marriage of financial convenience, in order to keep her secure funds for her sick mother to survive the harsh winter. Rosa’s new found life does not come easy however. The small and isolated community of her new home is distrustful and unwelcoming to strangers. Rumors of witchcraft and misdeeds are mumbled around town, seemingly having Rosa’s new husband Jón at the center of them.

    What is Jón hiding? What’s in the attic that is so private Rosa is never allowed up there? And most importantly: what happened to Jón’s previous wife Anna, that nobody seems to dare to speak of.

    I picked up

    completely on a whim (not in the least part because the stunning cover drew my eye), but was captivated by the story as soon as I read the first chapter. Darkly atmospheric, suspenseful and quite emotional in the end: this was everything I could have asked for at the moment.

    Caroline Lea’s beautiful writing does an amazing job of creating an eerie atmosphere of isolation, unwelcomeness and suspicion that permeates the entire story. Lea’s use of islandic words and knowledge of the daily life at the time add to the immersion and are a testament to the authors research on the subject.

    Atmosphere and suspense alone account for about 3.5 to 4 out of the 4.5 stars I just gave this novel. Dumbly enough, as much as I enjoy and value that quality in books, I suck at describing it in a review, especially to someone who hasn’t read the novel yet. My best shot is: if you enjoyed (the atmosphere and feeling of)

    or

    , this might be for you.

    Apart from the mystery and atmosphere, my favorite thing about The Glass Woman was the character of Rosa. She starts off as a scared and fragile little girl but really grows into newfound strength along the way. The same goes for the reluctant relationship between her and Jon, which grows stronger in a way, albeit not the way they anticipated.

    Saying too much more about the characters or plot might spoil things that are best discovered on your own. I recommend you pick it up and do just that.

    A very beautiful novel (inside and out), and extremely under-read and underrated at the moment. Highly recommend.

  • Whispering Stories

    Book Reviewed by Stacey on

    August 1686, Iceland. Rósa, the daughter of the late Bishop of Skalholt is living with her mother Sigridur in a little hut. They once lead a comfortable life, now after the death of her father, Rósa and her mother are struggling.

    A new wealthy man, Jón Eiríksson, arrives in town, they say his wife has only been dead for a few months and that he is there to not only deal with some work but to find himself a local girl to marry too.

    With Rósa’s mum

    Book Reviewed by Stacey on

    August 1686, Iceland. Rósa, the daughter of the late Bishop of Skalholt is living with her mother Sigridur in a little hut. They once lead a comfortable life, now after the death of her father, Rósa and her mother are struggling.

    A new wealthy man, Jón Eiríksson, arrives in town, they say his wife has only been dead for a few months and that he is there to not only deal with some work but to find himself a local girl to marry too.

    With Rósa’s mum being very poorly and the family now having next to no money, when Jón takes a fancy to Rósa at first she rebukes his charm but the sicker her mother becomes the more she realises it is the only way that she can help her, so Rósa agrees to marry Jón and move to live with her new husband in a remote village called Stykkishólmur. In exchange, he will help her mother and the villagers to live a more comfortable life.

    Moving to a new place with only her new husband who she barely knows and Petur who works for her husband, Róse becomes increasingly unhappy and isolated. There are plenty of rumours surrounding the death of Jón’s first wife and with a locked attic room in her house that Jón forbids her to enter, Rósa becomes concerned that something is amiss and that maybe the rumours are true.

    Weird noise keeps Rósa awake at night and she is convinced that there are dark spirits at play in the settlement. With an unsupportive husband who is very commanding and the feeling of dread hanging over her, could Rósa’s life be in danger?, and can she solve the mystery of what happened to Jón’s first wife, the wife he refuses to talk about?

    The first thing you will notice when you begin reading this book is how atmospheric it is. I haven’t read many books set in Iceland, but this historical book set in the country where darkness fills the time more than the daylight is exceptionally surreal. The coldness that the characters have to deal with is felt through the pages and at times it made me shiver. This shows how realistic the book felt at times.

    The book is set in an era where people believed in ghosts, spirits, witches, legends, etc and had their own way of dealing with them from chants, potions, and even runes to ward off the bad spirits and keep people safe.

    Both Rósa and Jón were fascinating characters to get involved with and it was a joy and a privilege to watch their development, especially Rosa’s, as this was a woman living in 1686 who was educated, wise beyond her years and knew what she wanted in life. As the book progressed so did their characters and I loved watching them evolve. The book is quite slow in pace, however, the story was so absorbing that the slowness wasn’t an issue.

    It took me about a week to read the book as I needed to concentrate on the plot to fully devour it. It is captivating and has a real Gothic, mystical feel to it. It was nice to read a book that really lived up to its title too.

  • Ova - Excuse My Reading

    A very well-written book, however for me, the story was not original and I lost focus a bit. It felt like reading a combination of The Miniaturist and Rebecca set in 1600's Iceland.

    Rosa marries to a man and moves to another village, the only reason she agreed this marriage is to save her mother's life, as the winter is harsh and the food is scarce. But her husband has secrets too. Everyone murmurs about the first wife. Will Rosa find out what really happened?

    The plot for me, was a bit predictab

    A very well-written book, however for me, the story was not original and I lost focus a bit. It felt like reading a combination of The Miniaturist and Rebecca set in 1600's Iceland.

    Rosa marries to a man and moves to another village, the only reason she agreed this marriage is to save her mother's life, as the winter is harsh and the food is scarce. But her husband has secrets too. Everyone murmurs about the first wife. Will Rosa find out what really happened?

    The plot for me, was a bit predictable and I'd have enjoyed this book more if it was shorter really.

  • Jane

    I was drawn in by an intriguing title, a beautiful cover, and the promise of a dark tale set in a cold country.

    Then I was captured by a striking image.

    On the coast of Iceland in November 1686 a a tremor cracked the ice and a body floated to the surface of the sea. One arm was raised and its bone-white fingers waved, as if it was alive.

    A group of villagers gathered to watch and talk, but there was one man among them who remained silent; because he knew the who the person under under the ice had b

    I was drawn in by an intriguing title, a beautiful cover, and the promise of a dark tale set in a cold country.

    Then I was captured by a striking image.

    On the coast of Iceland in November 1686 a a tremor cracked the ice and a body floated to the surface of the sea. One arm was raised and its bone-white fingers waved, as if it was alive.

    A group of villagers gathered to watch and talk, but there was one man among them who remained silent; because he knew the who the person under under the ice had been and he knew how that person had come to be there ….

    Some months earlier, a young woman named Rósa was living in a small, impoverished community with her widowed mother, Sigridúr. She knew that her mother was growing frail and would not survive the winter if she could not find more money to buy food and fuel.

    She had received an offer of marriage from Jón, the wealthy leader of a settlement some distance away. He promised to look after her mother and the local community; and so, though she didn’t want to leave her mother, her home and Páll – her childhood sweetheart who she had always thought she would wed – she knew that she had to accept the proposal.

    When she travelled to her new home in Stykkishólmur with her new husband, Rósa was concerned that her husband was taciturn, that he had them sleep in the open rather than seek lodgings, and that when they did meet other people he gave a false name.

    She hoped that things would be better when she was settled in her new home, but her husband made it clear that she was to be subservient and remain at the their croft to keep house and leave only at his bidding.

    He told her that he didn’t want his wife mixing with the people in the village; and when she approached her neighbours she found that they were reluctant to speak to her, that there was a mystery surrounding the death of the death of Jón’s first wife, and that they would say to her was that she should obey her husband.

    Just one woman, Katrin, tried to do a little more to help her.

    Rósa couldn’t help being fearful of her new husband, and of his apprentice, Pétur. She tried to please Jón, and sometimes she succeeded, but she struggled to cope with staying in their croft alone, with little to occupy her time.

    She loved reading and writing, she loved the old sagas, but her mother had warned her that her husband would not approve of any of that, and so she wrote only a little and hid her writing very carefully.

    She wondered what was in the loft space he insisted must be kept locked at all time, about what made the floorboards creak at night when her husband was away and she was in her bed alone, and about what had really had happened to the wife who came before her ….

    Rósa was a wonderfully engaging character and I really felt that I was living through this story with her. I understood her feelings, and I appreciated how carefully she walked the line as she tried to please her husband and to establish a life for herself.

    The storytelling kept me close to her, and while it moved slowly at times I realised that it had to, to catch the reality of Rósa’s situation.

    The writing was dark and lovely, and it caught the time, the place and the atmosphere wonderfully well.

    I had reservations though.

    My first reservation was that the time and place didn’t seem that specific. The setting was beautifully realised, the landscape had a significant part to play in the story; but I couldn’t help thinking that the story might have been set in any isolated community in a cold country, at a point in history where there were tensions between old and new traditions.

    My second reservation was that the structure didn’t work as well as it should. At first the story was told purely from Rósa’s point of view, but some way into the book another perspective was added into the mix. I completely understood the need for that second voice, it enriched the story but I wish it had been introduced a little earlier and that the transitions had been done with a little more finesse.

    Luckily, there was much more that I loved.

    I thought I might be a retelling of a traditional story, and I might have been in the beginning; but in time that story was subverted quite beautifully, and I found that the truth of this story and its characters were not at all as I had expected.

    I was caught up in the story from the beginning but in the later stages, when it reached the time when the body emerged from the icy sea and the consequences of that played out, I realised how real Rósa, the people around her and the world that they lived in had become to me.

    This book, with its secrets and its silences, worked so well in this dark, cold winter.

  • Sonja Arlow

    This is a wonderfully atmospheric book set in one of my favourite time periods and places. It has an interesting story and characters as well as stellar audio narrators…….yet I could never really connect with the story.

    I wonder if it would have made a difference if I read this rather than listen to it. Some books need to be read at a faster pace to be sucked in.

    The author paints a foreboding and sinister picture of Rosa’s new home. Newly married, extremely isolated and unsure of her role in this

    This is a wonderfully atmospheric book set in one of my favourite time periods and places. It has an interesting story and characters as well as stellar audio narrators…….yet I could never really connect with the story.

    I wonder if it would have made a difference if I read this rather than listen to it. Some books need to be read at a faster pace to be sucked in.

    The author paints a foreboding and sinister picture of Rosa’s new home. Newly married, extremely isolated and unsure of her role in this community, Rosa tries to make sense of the noises she hears at night, the rumours about her predecessor and the volatility of Jon’s interactions with her. The villagers are no help either as she is forbidden contact with anyone other than Jon and his farm hand.

    As the story progresses more background is given about Rosa and Jon yet the switch in timelines and from 3rd to 1st person didn’t work very well for me.

    The book is compared to

    but it reminded me a lot more of

    .

    I can completely understand the glowing reviews as the author created a very distinct sense of time and place but unfortunately the story never took off for me.

  • Navessa

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