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The Whispering Muse by Sjon (Telegram Books, £7.99
THIS book won the best Icelandic Novel award in 2005 and has only now been translated into English.
It is a strange tale that mixes the present with legends of the past. It tells of Vladimir Haraldsson who, in 1949, has been invited to join a merchant ship on its way to the Black Sea, his speciality being the research of and lecturing on the influence of fish consumption on the Nordic civilization.
Every evening the captain, the purser, mistress and crew eat their gourmet cooked meals after which the second mate, the mythical hero Caeneus, puts a piece of driftwood to his ear and then tells his strange story of how he sailed with Jason on the Argo to recover the Golden Fleece.
Vladimir Haraldsson, keen to tell the crew about the fish consumption, is somewhat jealous of the attention given to Caeneus, until he finds out more. Sjon cleverly weaves the stories together with characters that remain mysterious.
It is beautifully told so that we become totally caught up with the present voyage and that of the Argo.
This is a unique novel that I think will need more than one reading to be able to fully appreciate the mysteries that lay at the heart of it. It won’t be everyone’s cup of tea but I enjoyed it and I will never look at seagulls again without remembering the ending of this novel.