Island, Book One – Synopsis
Island is the sweeping story set on a remote archipelago off the north coast of Norway in the early nineteenth century. 12 year old Solvi is caught between the new world and the old. She dreams of a life off her island home, but one akin to her ancestral Vikings who whisper to her from the ocean that surrounds her. The course of her life changes when a boy is rescued from the sea and brought to her island. Johan is the sole survivor of a shipwrecked Dutch merchant vessel.
While Solvi believes Johan is a gift from the gods to help her escape her island home, Johan views the island as a form of purgatory, punishment for the fact he did not drown with his family. And although he is adopted by the islanders they view him with suspicion.
Yes, there are formidable forces opposing Solvi’s plans to one day leave her island home. Her mother Magda, a zealous Christian, wants Solvi to reject the old Viking tales and mysticism and join the Lutheran church. Åste, the aging village witch sees in Solvi the girl who will eventually become her replacement. And then there is Solvi herself and the loyalty she feels towards her dying grandfather and the promise she made to become the keeper of the ancient saga, those verses he’d passed down from the gods themselves.
Over time the friendship between Solvi and Johan fosters into affection and eventually love. Together they scheme to escape the island that has become a prison to both.
When two soldiers – bounty hunters hired by the Danish king – arrive on the island, more than the dreams of Solvi and Johan are threatened. The soldiers are determined to find more than the fugitive but also the gold they’ve heard lies hidden under the village walls. In the clash that ensues the islanders reveal their indomitable will to survive.olvi and Johan go into hiding and the rest of the islanders circle round to protect their home from the foreign threat.
Selected Reading from “Island, Book One”
Lars Gundson is the first fisherman to pull onto the shore. He drags his oslevar well above the tide line and hops back into its belly, then picks up a rolled sail adn steps from his boat. Two boots dangle from one end of the sail and a head lolls from the other. Its skin is split in two, a gash running between the eyes, between the nose and down to to the chin. Solvi watches as Lars lays the sail on the ground and unrolls it, sees the body, it’s limp long limbs falling open – a boy perhaps. Solvi thinks the mass of white hair is Loki framing a face of red and black. “Or a sea urchin,” she whispers to herself. The eyes on the face open and look at her. Solvi holds her breath.
Bjenke stands beside her sister Inger near the boy,She takes off her cape and throws it to Lars. “Cover him.” she says.
Inger draws a cup from her bucket. “Make him drink.” She says, and holds the water out to Lars.
They hold the cup together, close to the boy’s mouth. The boy is still. Inger jumps back and Bjenke says, “His broken lip burns.” Lars pats the boys hair.
“What is here?” Magda kneels down beside Lars, and her sisters, the Alle Tantes close behind. She strokes the boy’s head. “His breath is thin.” she says, and moves her ear close to his mouth. “There, there now.” She touches the gash above his nose and looks up to Solvi. “This is deep.” She turns back to the boy and rocks her body back and forth.
Solvi stares at her mother’s hands. Then sees the boy open his eyes. Watches as he stares up at her Magda. Sees his eyes close again, the stillness.
“Is he dead?” she asks.
Magda puts her fingers on the boy’s neck and shakes her head. “Get Åste.”
“Yes, yes” Aste pushes her way through the tight circle that’s formed around the boy. She holds up her cane and spreads her arms, forcing a wide space. She falls to both knees and directs Lars to lay the boys head on her lap, then traces the length of his gash.
“Girl.” She looks at Solvi. “You will make the stitches.”
Solvi steps backwards.
“Solvi.” Aste says her name with firmness, then smiles.. “We want the boy beautiful.” Her eyes glint. Solvi nods.
Her mother and the Alle Tantes are staring at her. Indifferent. The boy is moaning. And Solvi is held there, Inger on one side, Bjenke at her other.
“Come girl.” Åste rummages through one of the pouches that hang from her belt.
Magda stands up and takes Solvi’s shoulder and pulls her to the ground.
Aste pulls a silver needle from her pouch and holds it out to Solvi. Then she pulls out a small ball of twine
Solvi grabs them. She knows these things. The boy’s face is nothing but a shoe.
Åste crooks her finger at Solvi, then she pushes the two sides of the boy’s forehead together. “Here, four stitches,” she says.
Solvi straddles the boy and sits lightly on his chest. She yells out, “Eight.” as she pokes the needle into the boys skin.
The boy screams and jumps up and his eyes fly open. Solvi flings upwards and throws her hands on his shoulders. She stares down at him and whispers, ‘Freya take pity.’
The boy is screaming up at her and Solvi shouts, “Hold him Lars.” Lars takes the boy’s head between his thick hands. Magda and Åste jump to either and hold him down. Solvi pulls the skin on his forehead together again and imagines her boot, pulls the twine through gently, and concentrates on her work, and ignores the boys tears.
Every bone in Johan’s body aches. He must be dead, he prays. Hiding in the sweetness of his mother’ smile at heaven’s gate. Not here shivering in the giant hands that pulled him from his rock.
His throat collapsed, there’s no sound coming from his mouth. His body sunk into darkness, no longer breathing. Turned and twisted in the waves. They were waves, or a monster? No it was a sail.
A beach. He’s buried here. His family standing near. His mother and father looking down. So far away, watching as he is lowered into this ground.
He remembers the girl. Huge blue eyes pulling at him, poking into his flesh. His mother patting his hair. Not his mother. A demon. Cackling and burning his flesh. The devil. These witches have captured him. Keep him from passing through. The inferno. Let the wave take him. Death spit him out. Not punished. Sent to hell.
He cries out, thinks of how to kick out, how to reach inside, fight his way back onto earth.
Solvi leans over the boy’s face and examines her stitches. A few shreds of skin have been ripped too thin to pull together. She’s doing what she can.
The village is there now, everyone watching her. Her mother and Aste inches from her hands watching every move. Lars’ with his fish breath surrounding her.
All the men have returned from the sea now. No sign of the ship, they said. No others found. And now they watch her too Solvi looked up briefly to see her father smiling back at her.
Solvi leans back into the boy and feels her way along his wound. One small stitch beside the nose, she thinks. She is careful to avoid the bone. Then she mends the little flap of skin on his cheek, opens her mouth so warm breath fills his skin.
Aste leans in and pokes the boyls cheek with her bent finger. “There.” she says. But Solvi doesn’t need to be guided. She knows how to fix this face. She can feel it as if it’s her own.