Literary Fiction | Mystery & Thrillers
Penguin Michael Joseph UK
Pub Date 03 Jun 2021
Copy provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Teacher Wanted At the Edge of the World Una wants nothing more than to teach, but she has been unable to secure steady employment in Reykjavík. Her savings are depleted, her love life is nonexistent, and she cannot face another winter staring at the four walls of her shabby apartment. Celebrating Christmas and ringing in 1986 in the remote fishing hamlet of Skálar seems like a small price to pay for a chance to earn some teaching credentials and get her life back on track. But Skálar isn't just one of Iceland's most isolated villages, it is home to less than a dozen people. Una's only students are two girls aged seven and nine. Teaching them only occupies so many hours in a day and the few adults she interacts with are civil but distant. She only seems to connect with Thór, a man she shares an attraction with but who is determined to keep her at arm's length. As darkness descends throughout the bleak winter, Una finds herself more often than not in her rented attic space - the site of a local legendary haunting - drinking her loneliness away. She is plagued by nightmares of a little girl in a white dress singing a lullaby. And when a sudden tragedy echoes an event long buried in Skálar's past, the villagers become even more guarded, leaving a suspicious Una seeking to uncover a shocking truth that's been kept secret for generations.
I fell in love with Ragnar Jonasson’s writing with his debut Snowblind. It reminded me of Agatha Christie’s storytelling. That’s why I had different expectations when I started reading this book. This story is quite different, it seems like someone else is the writer, but as you read, you’ll see author’s fingerprints on it. I am used to his writing of winter darkness and loneliness, isolation and the effect of the locked room while you are in the open space. I find all those thing here too, but expecting a police procedural, I got a paranormal story.
The main character is Una, a teacher, with no job and no money. Teaching is her dream job and she won’t give up on it, no matter what. That’s why she accepts the job offer to teach the only two children in the village of Skalar. There are very few people in the isolated village and she is the stranger. People who live here do not have cell phones, just landlines, they read newspapers, barely have internet. She tries to fit in, but some things simply do not go in her favor. The weirdest thing is the piano music she listens at night when she goes to bed, but there is no piano nowhere near by. And there is a little girl who comes near her bed, but she is not one of her students, the only two children in the village.
Overall, I liked the story. It is very different from the other books Mr. Jonasson wrote, but not it isn’t bad at all. It still has his fingerprints on it. The author included mystery death, misterious disappearance and paranormal stuff. And all that surrounded by nordic darkness settled in rural Iceland. I liked Una as a character. I liked her stubbornness to finish things till the end. So, if you are in the mood for a creepy, dark, paranormal story with chilling effects on this heat, this is a story for you.