Karitas Untitled

Kristín Marja Baldursdóttir

Amazon Crossing

Karitas Jónsdóttir is the youngest daughter of Steinunn Ólafsdóttir, a hardworking widow with two other daughters and three sons. Life on their western Icelandic farm is hard. Steinunn determines her children will have the best education she can afford, so she sells up and moves to Akureyri in the north of the island where advanced educational facilities existHere the family worklong hard hours gutting and salting herring and as maids to the rich folks of the town. Eventually the family affords the education the children deserve, but Karitas inherited an artistic nature from her late father. She feels the need for greater expression than embroidery, the traditional pursuit of Icelandic women.

… a wonderful contribution to bringing Nordic literature to a wider audience.

Chance intervenes when a rich women of the town takes an interest in Karitas’ art. A frustrated artist herself, Madame Eugenía funds Karitas’ attendance at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen. When she returns to Iceland, Karitas is once again forced to work gutting herring. She falls in love with handsome fisherman Sigmar Hilmarsson and quickly becomes pregnant. They set up home together in his community of Borgarfjörður, but it’s not long before Karitas becomes unsettled, then deeply frustrated by Sigmar’s vanity, the relentless hard work, pregnancies and child rearing. Her artistic soul is stifled leading to a need to escape the confines of their relationship. When the break comes Karitas finds she has to give up more than her marriage in order to express her artistic independence.

Karitas Untitled is a sweeping tale as majestic and often as bleak and brutal as the Icelandic landscape and the seas that wash its shores. What really shines through is the faith Karitas and the women around her have in themselves and each other. Baldursdóttir has made a wonderful contribution to bringing Nordic literature to a wider audience.


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