The Journey Home, by Olaf Olafsson. New York: Random House, 2000. 296 pgs.
This book was my first introduction to the enigmatic Olaf Olafsson. Why enigmatic? Well, here is a man who got his degree in physics, is a highly successful corporate executive, and in his spare time writes bestselling novels. Oh, and he does his own translations, being equally proficient, it appears, in Icelandic and English. No doubt this doesn't keep him busy, and he has many other fascinating hobbies to which we are not privy. And... he's still young. (No, I will not define young. Let's just use the universal definition, shall we? Younger than myself.)
This novel introduces us to Disa (a woman about as young as myself), who has finally decided to leave the emotionally secure life she has built for herself in England to return to Iceland, and confront her memories, fears and past. On the face of it the story sounds like many you have read, but not when Olafsson is spinning the tale. He is a master of plot twists and turns, and interweaves mysteries and surprises into the lives of his characters, always in a believable way.
Olafsson lets you come to know Disa little by little: you see Disa from the outside, and slowly discover what is inside. The story line is discontinuous, with flashbacks to Iceland, World War II Germany and England, and present day England. As in real life, the protagonist's point of view is flawed and limited. Consequently my opinion of Disa as I read the book was fluid and changing. Using first person narrative, flashbacks and letters, Olafsson gives you a growing sense of his character, whom you never come to know completely. And why should you? Do you know yourself completely?