Book Review – The Greenhouse by Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir

The Greenhouse’s main character Lobbi is in his early twenties and lives in the Icelandic countryside with his lonely father. He has an autistic twin brother and a baby daughter who he doesn’t see very much. His mother has recently died in a road accident.

Published by AmazonCrossing

Lobbi has the chance to leave all of this behind and use his gardening skills to restore a monastery garden in another country in Europe. Gardening and cooking are themes in this book that represent family life. Lobbi’s mother was a keen gardener and it was from her that he inherited his love of roses that they cultivated in their greenhouse. The greenhouse is also the location of the one night stand resulting in Lobbi’s baby.

Lobbi’s father isn’t a particularly skilled cook, but tries to cook the recipes that his wife used to make, and uses food as a way of keeping memories alive. He also worries a lot about what Lobbi is eating when he’s abroad.

Very little of the book is set in Iceland, it is mostly about Lobbi’s journey to the monastery (it’s never specified exactly where in Europe this is, but it’s somewhere with a language not widely spoken) and then what happens to him in his new country.

There are some surprising behaviours from some of the characters and maybe one of the lessons in this book is that your past can catch up with you. I found Lobbi as a character to be quite weak. He doesn’t really know what he wants and is pretty reactive to life rather than making things happen for himself.  But in the end, he finds that he is capable of more than he thinks.

Overall, I found this book a little slow. It’s written in a style that doesn’t include quotation marks around dialogue and usually that stops me from even buying a book! This book has won quite a few awards and I think it just didn’t click with me. I’ve even found it hard to write this review – I feel like my review jumps around too much, but then I thought the same about the book. It’s still a good enough read and you might find it interesting. I’d like to read another one of her works to see if the style is the same. Thank you to Professor Batty for making me aware of this book.

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11 thoughts on “Book Review – The Greenhouse by Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir

  1. As much as I like Icelandic literature I may stay away from this one. They must all write in the winter darkness with all its broodiness and depression. It seems like the entire country does a massive mood swing from winter to summer. I know I do the same, but maybe not as extreme. Batty has an amazing take on Icelandic writing.

    • I quite like “dark” writing, but it still has to be well-written. It’s very rare for me to finish a book and feel iffy about it like this one. I know, I think the Professor needs to run some classes on Icelandic literature!

  2. Hmmm. I never did get this book (no Amazon Icelandic Christmas order this year) I think I may pass on this as well. Thanks for the review, it’s really nice to be able to read reviews of little-known books.

    • Thank you for bringing it to my attention in the first place. A couple of fellow Icelandophiles like you and Jon might still find it interesting for the Icelandic content but I agree, don’t put it to the top of your reading list! One anecdote the book repeated several times was that red-haired people are more prone to seasickness. I don’t know if that really is an Icelandic myth but it was one of the few bits I found interesting from a cultural perspective.

  3. This book was a great surprise. Not dark at all, on the contrary, the main character is a quiet, sensible guy that finds beauty eveywhere and in everybody. But he is not simple or predictable. He is greathearted. That’s why his relations with his dad, daughter and girl/friend/lover are sincere and great. I actually found myself smiling often while reading it.

  4. Pingback: Book Review: Butterflies in November by Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir | I'd Rather Be In Iceland

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