Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Book Club - Last Places

At the end of last year around the blizzard month a group of us decided to start an English speaking book club. Most of the group I originally met at Icelandic class and is made up of German, Latvian, Scottish, French, Brazilian and Australians.  Most of us have never been in a book club before, so it is fairly laid back with no serious rules to follow other than the host provide tea and biscuits.  

We meet once a month, taking turns to host with the host choosing the book for the following month.  We now have had two meetings, the first last November and our second one last week, we skipped December as many were overseas.  I have decided to briefly review the books (don't expect anything in depth as I don't want to turn it into a chore) on the blog after we have had our monthly book club discussion of them...mainly to just keep a record for myself.  I have no idea what each group members style of book reading I am anticipating to read books that I may never have dreamed of selecting for myself.

The first meeting was with the initial organiser of the group Madara who selected a book she had picked up at the Red Cross in Akureyri,  Last Places: A Journey in the North by Lawrence Millman. As we are all living in the North it seemed like a good first choice.

There is no kindle or e-reader version of this book so most of us bought a hard copy from The Book Depository who always offer free worldwide delivery and they were very efficient with books arriving within a few days.

Last Places is basically a travel book where Millman a lone traveler takes the reader on a journey exploring the path of the vikings through the Shetland Islands, the Faeros, Iceland, Greenland and Labrador.  These 'last places' he visits are remote, isolated regions and Millman has a distinctly odd way of describing these vestiges of the north and their few inhabitants.  His descriptions are often humourous and quirky but always without judgement plus he adds some historical commentary along the way. Millman brings to life these secluded places and the occupiers of these lands in a way that only a person who appreciates the strange and obscure can.  

It took me a while to workout the time period he traveled but from date of publication I think it would have been the mid 80's....many things have changed since then...not sure you could have this type of travel adventure now.  Millman is a mycologist (fungi expert) which sort of explains to me where his penchant for this type of travel perhaps originated...camping out, alone in the wilderness.  

I did enjoy the book and give it 4 out of 5 stars and recommend to those of you who are fascinated by the Arctic and northern lands.  I will end off with a couple of favourite quotes from the novel.

This one made me laugh-
"Beside him was a girl with her head buried in her hands and who kept opening and closing her legs quickly as if beaming messages at sea."

And I leave you with my favourite as it so beautifully explains the dawn experience I have here during the dark winter.

"Dawn doesn't crack at this time of the year, it merely dilutes the night."


  1. " it merely dilutes the light..."
    I like that.

  2. That's the thing about wordsmiths. They occasionally turn a memorable phrase that will make one smile or at least ponder.