Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Family Studies

The Vikings Return: Icelandic Immigration to Canada, 1870-1920

Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Family Studies

The Vikings Return: Icelandic Immigration to Canada, 1870-1920

Article excerpt

Marian McKenna. THE VIKINGS RETURN: ICELANDIC IMMIGRATION TO CANADA, 1870-1920. Calgary, Alberta, Canada: Detselig Enterprises Ltd. (2010), 424 pages, ISBN 978-1550594089.

The Vikings Return is a history of the Icelandic immigration to North America, and in particular to Canada, from 1870-1920. The book is divided into nine chapters, an Introduction and a Conclusion. Like the immigration process it aims at describing and explaining, the book is a bit of a mixed package. After a fairly clear introduction, the first three chapters of the book go awry. Chapter one, "Iceland before the Great Emigration" is a strange mix of fact and fiction about conditions in Iceland from the time it was first populated, until today. The chapter starts with a quotation from a poem by the CanadianIcelandic poet Stephan G. Stephansson, where both the presentation of the Icelandic text (replete with spelling mistakes), and the translation are misleading to say the least. Sadly the same goes for the bulk of the chapter. It is far from clear what this thousand year introduction has to do with the subject at hand, and the writing is repetitive and confusing. The connection with the "Viking" past, that seems to be the underlying theme that the author has in mind needs much more factual evidence to be credible, and it is also unclear what the author sees as its relation to the immigration of the 1870 's.

Things improve a bit as we move along, and the author seems to get into her stride when we get to chapter four, entitled, "New Iceland: A Sea of Troubles". It seems that after the Icelandic immigrants were, for the most part, finally settled in one place, as opposed to being moved from one disastrous plan and place to another, either by misguided representatives of the Canadian immigration authorities or inexperienced leaders from their own group, the author of the book finally manages to catch up with them. …

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