‘As free as a caged bird…’

Good morning all, I am on another Random Things blog tour today! And The Swans Began To Sing by Thora Karitas Arnadottir is out January 10th 2019!


Gudbjorg Thorisdottir is born into a happy Icelandic family in 1952, the second child of loving parents and followed by three further siblings. They live upstairs in Mörk, a painted corrugated iron house in Reykjavik that has been in the family for generations. Their home is dominated by Gudgjorg’s grandfather, who lives in the ground-floor apartment with her aunt, uncle and cousins. Next door to Mörk is Little-Farm, the original old stone house with a coal cellar that Gudbjorg calls the Black Hole.
Gudbjorg is frightened of the Black Hole because horrible things happen down there. She lives with a secret that she can’t tell anybody, because Grandpa says that her family will lose their home if she does. Grandpa buys her presents and gives her caramels in a lovely white jug, so that makes him a good person, doesn’t it?
On the wall above Grandpa’s bed is a black and white reproduction of a Madonna and Child that Gudbjorg likes to gaze upon, as it comforts her when Grandpa is making her feel bad.
When she has grown into a teenager, and her family has moved away from Mörk, she realises that what has happened throughout her childhood is wrong. But still she takes the blame, and the shame of her experiences upon herself. After all, she seems to be the only girl in the family that this has happened to.
Gudbjorg emerges into womanhood accompanied by the ghost of Grandpa’s abuse. Every time she wants to say anything, the ghost tightens its hand over her mouth and she remains dumb. It’s not until she takes a new job as Principle of a Reykjavik primary school that she accepts she needs to get help.
It’s Gudbjorg’s daughter, Thora Karitas Arnadottir, who has taken her mother’s true story and brought it out into the light. Weaving together fact, fiction and poetic prose, her resulting testament bears all the magic of a fairy tale. A fairy tale incorporating endurance and survival, violence and tenderness and the heroism of a character who refuses to be crushed by the monster at the bottom of the Black Hole.
Despite the darkness at the heart of Gudbjorg’s story, Thora Karitas has created a compelling narrative nonfiction account of life in Iceland from the time of her great-great-grandparents, right into the present. A story full of rural charm and ancestral memories, often encapsulated in the familial objects Gudbjorg has collected around her – each opening a window into the past and placing us in a particular moment – bringing back into sharp focus members of her family and ways of life that have long passed

Official Goodreads blurb for And The Swans Began To Sing


Wow. Where to start?

I think all the air escaped from my lungs after reading this story. Although, it’s not a story at all- it’s real. Thora is the daughter of Gudbjorg, who suffers at the hands of her father (Thora’s grandfather) with the most unspeakable abuse. This is their story.

The fact that this book is non-fiction and uses the most incredibly emotive language to make up the narrative demonstrates the author’s skill to not only convey emotions but tell the truth with a strong structure. I was stunned at how the story shifted from fear to guilt, shame to strength and flowed easily between events and people.

I am honestly still shocked that this is a true story, and can’t believe the heartache that this family has gone through. This short novel is by far the most emotional read I have read in a long time.

Sometimes I got myself lost in Thora’s beautiful words, which then it took a dark turn once again and I was reminded that all these things really happened. I was impressed by the author’s ability to recount such painful memories, and thought of how brave she must be to force herself to remember everything.

The author’s creativity is also something to admire greatly. With many literary connotations and intertexts throughout, this is more than just your average non-fiction text. Furthermore, I never felt obliged to sympathise with the author- I did though, but based on the facts. I don’t think this book isn’t intended for people to feel sorry for the characters (although you may feel that way) but instead feel empowered by such a strong woman, who only wants you to read her story, listen to its message, and understand her words.


I would recommend And The Swans Began To Sing to anyone who is stuck in a reading rut, or for those wanting to read something a bit different and challenge themselves for an intense read. I believe this book would also feature nicely for anyone wanting to look deeper into themselves- although perhaps not an exact same experience, I believe this book is a good stepping-stone for an insight into the world of shame and the power of belief.

A powerfully emotive story with a strong message about guilt and acceptance…

How to get your hands on a copy:



Thank you ever so much to Anne Carter from Random Things Blog Tours for my place on the tour.

Thank you also to the author and to Tracey and Phil from Wild Pressed Books for my copy.

Happy reading! Lx

3 Comments Add yours

  1. annecater says:

    Thank you so much for this amazing Blog Tour support x


  2. traceintime says:

    Reblogged this on Traces In Time and commented:
    I just wanted to share this wonderful review on @books_b_t_story’s blog of And the Swans Began to Sing, by Icelandic author Thora Karitas.


  3. traceintime says:

    Thank you from Wild Pressed Books for starting the blog tour off so powerfully! (Tracey)


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