Saturday, 21 September 2013


This month the Stromness Library Reading Group will be discussing Islanders by Margaret Elphinstone

Set on 12th-century Fridarey (Fair Isle) Islanders tells the story of Astrid, the only survivor of a shipwreck, and her struggle to come to terms with her new home amongst the small community with all its tensions and conflict. 

As well as a glimpse into a different time and culture the book offers a different view of the world in a time where all travel was at the mercy of wind and tide. A map at the front of the book reverses the usual north/south orientation and  offers a new perspective on Orkney's place in the world. Rather than remote, we now see Orkney as a central point in the Norse world, sitting in the middle of the trading routes from Norway to Ireland. 

The islanders of Fridarey owe their allegiance to the Earl of Orkneyjar, and Kirkjavagr with its cathedral to St Magnus is  talked of as a seat of power and riches. Much of the wealth of Orkneyjar comes from the activities of the 'Orkneyjar pirates'  and Snorri Hakonsson, Fridarey's smith has returned to the island a cripple having fought alongside the infamous Svein Asleifarson who, 'keeps eighty men in Gareksy all winter, and when he goes to sea [...] mans at least four longships'. 

Come along to the library on Wednesday 25th September at 7pm for a lively discussion of the book and its view of the Norse world. New members very welcome, there will be tea and coffee and, as far as we know, no Orkneyjar pirates!

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