The Glass Woman

The Glass Woman



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 talk of it. Instead he gives her a small glass figurine. She does not know what it signifies.

The villagers mistrust them both. Dark threats are whispered. There is an evil here - Rósa can feel it. Is it her husband, the villagers - or the land itself?

Alone and far from home, Rósa sees the darkness coming. She fears she will be its next victim . . .

Our Review

The Glass Woman by Caroline Lea is a mesmerising novel full of intrigue, folk tales and superstitions. Perfect for fans of Jane Eyre and The Bear and the Nightingale.

I ‘read a chapter’ after having to get up at 4am when my son wasn’t sleeping but one chapter turned into five and I finished the book before the day was out.

The Glass Woman is about a young woman named Rosa living in a village in Iceland in 1686. The heads of the villagers are filled both with the ancient sagas and the teachings of the church. They practice pagan runes in secret whilst preaching that the practice of witchcraft is a sin and will see you burned.

Rosa and her mother are struggling to survive since her father died two months previously of a disease or subject of a curse depending on who you speak to. Too proud to beg they have to rely on handouts, but food is scarce and when Rosa learns the boy she secretly loves is going without food to feed her she knows she must take drastic action.

“It had taken Rosa very little time after her pappi’s death to see that their situation was desperate.”

Her mother has become ill and Rosa knows that the main things she need to cure her are food and fuel for the fire, neither of which they can afford.

Then enters Jon Eiriksson, a rich fisherman, businessman and farmer who is looking for another wife after his died earlier in the year. He wants to marry Rosa and she knows that marrying him would ensure her mother and the boy she loves will last the harsh winter.

She has her doubts though because rumours have followed Jon from the remote village in which he lives, rumours in which his wife didn’t die of a fever but was killed by him.

Rosa’s mother is blunt when he calls on them.

“I heard you buried her in the middle of the night, then went out fishing the next day. As if your wife cost you no more grief than a dog.’

She warns Rosa afterwards that she is too naïve to see there is a darkness in that man but both of them know that if Rosa doesn’t marry him then they will both starve.

“When a stone is caught in a rushing river, what choice does it have but to move?”

Rosa’s father taught her to read and write and Rosa enjoys writing sagas, but she knows that when she soon realises when she marries Jon that she must put all that aside. A woman must honour and obey her husband and women who write are often accused of witchcraft.

Then there is the strange glass figure he gives her as a wedding gift.

“It was cold, like frozen water, and shaped into the perfect form of a woman: tiny hands clasped in introspection, gaze meekly lowered…’I had it from a Danish trader,’ he said. ‘Beautiful. Fragile. Humble.’ He touched her cheek. His hand was burning on her skin. ‘It made me think of you.’

A woman made of glass and stillness: perfect but easily shattered.”

That is what she must become if she is to please her new husband, but Rosa finds life with her husband hard. He is gone from the croft most days but forbids the lonely Rosa from inviting the villagers to visit or from visiting them. He says he doesn’t want to end up like Anna and be made worse by the local gossipers.

On top of this Rosa often feels like she is not alone in the house, like someone or something is watching her and there are strange noises coming from the locked loft she is forbidden from entering.

Is she going mad or does she need to be careful that she doesn’t end up like Jon’s last wife?

The cover of The Glass Woman beautiful and definitely the kind of cover book lovers would buy just because it is pretty but luckily the story within makes it worthwhile as well.

The book begins with a body being pulled from the ice and a man feeling the weight of accusing stares upon himself.

“The day the earth shifts, a body emerges from the belly of the ice-crushed sea. Bone-white fingers waving, as if alive.”

Caroline Lea paints a vivid picture of the harsh landscape in which the villagers exist, and it is easy to see why the land is steeped in ancient sagas.

“The land is black-toothed and raw, occasionally stippled with rough scrub and coarse yellowed grass. The haunting desolation stops her breath in her throat. In the distance, the mountains look like gathering storm clouds. There is an old belief that each mountain contains a spirit, and perhaps this accounts for the itch between Rosa’s shoulder blades as they move into the craggy landscape.”

The Glass Woman is full of warm and engaging characters living in a harsh and wintery landscape and is a novel you won’t be sorry you picked up. A perfect winter read.

Our Final Rating...

Our Rating

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