Review: Sigga of Reykjavik
Publisher: Beacon Press Books, Washington D.C.
Author: Solveig Eggerz
Reviewed by: Ralph Peluso, Literary Editor
Zebra Rating – 5 Stripes
ALEXANDRIA, VA-For those who enjoy the plight of strong heroines facing brutal conditions and long odds, Sigga of Reykjavik hits home. From the beginning, Sigga’s determination of will and intestinal struggles draws you to her. She is unrestrained of spirit and independent, and readers will quickly sense that Sigga is destined for great things.
But first, Sigga must survive. She needs sufficient strength to fend off the fawning men working around her. The author parallels Sigga’s drive for independence with that of Iceland’s struggle to complete its break from Danish rule.
Sigga of Reykjavik, starting during the Great Depression, is an engaging coming-of-age story of a young woman fleeing the abusive working conditions she endures at every turn. She soon learns that the grass on the other side is not greener. She runs smack dab into abject poverty and a variety of tribulations in depression-ravaged Reykjavik.
Armed with the threat of a powerful fist to the jaw, Sigga diligently supports her family, working alongside men who wisely know that Sigga does not tolerate unwelcomed touches. But women easily connect with Sigga on several levels: adventurous spirit, nurturing instincts, and maternal protection of her fiery-haired daughter, Tosca.
The onset of World War II exhilarates Sigga. She sees it as way to break out of isolation for her and Iceland. Occupation by the Allied forces brings opportunity; added work reaps her a bit of wealth. But Sigga is at a moral crossroads, accepting financial benefits for her family, knowing they come from the hands of carnal, thirsty, ill-intentioned soldiers.
Sigga is fearless and lives life to the fullest, taking on every challenge and captivating readers along the way.
The author notes: “A military occupation, even by a friendly force, as with the Allies, is experienced very differently by the occupied and the occupier. Humiliation, fear of life or even national extinction are especially strong concerns for small countries. Iceland, with a population of 120,000, was no different. Icelandic history is inspirational. The struggle for independence. The Allied occupation, a British and U.S. force of nearly 50,000. In that, I saw a novel. One that might impact women already facing dire personal circumstances. Sigga was born — feisty, fearless, a female who fights on for her family’s good. And a fascinating fish industry! Sigga did what she needed to: wash, dry, salt, and sell fish. The two most important men in her life are a poor rowboat fisherman, Jon, and a successful trawler man, Sveinn.”