Audur Ava Ollafsdottir published her third novel in 2011. She is an assistant professor of art history and the director of art museum of the University of Iceland. I have read the translation of The Greenhouse by Brian Fitz Gibbon in English recently.
The story is told from the perspective of a young man who is going to leave his homeland in order to restore a rose garden. He lives with his father and his younger brother after losing mother. They live with her memories all the time. Mother and her advices are omnipresent while cooking a soup in the kitchen, driving in a highway and making decision to go abroad. Even in her absence the father seeks for her approval. I was very impressed by this part of the story.
There are two girls involved in his life. One of them is his little girl and another one is “his girl’s mother”. He has never called her as a girlfriend. He said goodbye to them and left his country. But after a while he took the responsibility of raising her daughter.
Some parts of the book are very interesting for someone who has lived in a foreign country. It is difficult for him to communicate with people who speak another language. He says, “People ask simple questions and try to help me understand them. My vocabulary is weak and I cannot make sentences immediately”. I have the same feeling when I live abroad.
I disagree with him when he says, “pulling out the dictionary is too humiliating.” I try to understand what people are telling me. Otherwise I use dictionary to find specific words and phrases which I have problem with them.
There are some dialogues between father and his son that refers to generation gap. Father encourages him to stay at home and get a university degree instead of going abroad. Father says, “There is no great future in gardening for a brilliant student.” The young man tells himself, “Since when am I a brilliant student?” I feel sympathy for him at this moment.
He also says, “The things I just call coincidence or chance, depending on circumstances, are all part of some intricate system for dad.”
His struggling with language is everywhere. Someone tells him that his daughter has not so much hair on her head. He says, “There are a lot I would like to get off my chest, and it is my linguistic skills that are preventing me from defending my daughter.”
I enjoyed reading this book and I recommend to others.
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