The Far Traveler: Voyages of a Viking Woman by Nancy Marie Brown [Book Review]
An awesome mix of documentary history and archaeology, to bring a character to life. Even though we can’t be sure hat Gudrid was a real woman that actually existed the combination of the sagas and the archaeology give a great understanding of life in the viking period, and particularly from a female perspective. This is not a tale of warriors and raiders, but one of persuasion and influence and a hard life on the very frontiers of where humans could exist. Gudrid was born in Iceland, and went to America with Erik the Red. Later in life she went to Rome.
I read this last year, the Far Traveler was the first book that I read in 2020 but for some reason I forgot to post the review to the blog. I think because it was sort of half-finished and I was crazy busy with work in January & February, sick in March, and then the world imploded. It’s obvious why I read it, it was background into Fierce, and women of the viking era. It was in homage to this book that I named Gudrid’s Prophecy. I got a real sense that the Gudrid written in the Far Traveler was a real woman.
There’s a fair amount of archaeological evidence to support this story. Actually, the story is based on the archaeology, supplemented by sagas, and then the very few gaps left over are filled in with a very small amount of speculation. This book is as much social history as archaeology. My copy has many flags on it so that I can refer back to things to add verisimilitude to my stories. If I was a historical re-enactor of this period it would be a valuable source. So much is explained about the ordinary parts of life.
The author started work on some archeological digs in Iceland, and that’s what lead to her writing The Far Traveler. These were inspired by the sagas, and some opportunities to dig before other things were built. One of the digs was on a turf house which dated to around the time of the Vinland trips. The author was also in contact with the people that dug the site in Canada with Viking artefacts. The book explains what was found at these sites, as well as what is known about how the houses were built. There are houses in Iceland with the same pattern as the ones in Vinland. The sagas also link well to what has been dug up.
Overall this is such an excellent book. It has become a reference work for me. The style was very readable too, and paced well with laying out a very plausible narrative for Gudrid. I strongly recommend it.