Member Reviews

Captain Thuridur, born in Iceland in the late 18th century, survives volcanic 'hell' in childhood to begin fishing the icy Atlantic waters and becomes a fishing captain as a young adult. Perilously navigating weather and the sea to cheat death on a daily basis, 'Woman, Captain, Rebel' she was. What is more, Thuridur Einarsdottir was just a girl from the peasant class - unspectacular beginnings for an amazing life.

In this harsh environment, everyone needed to work hard to live - including women and children. Wilson tells of other fishwomen and women farmhands within this book, in that Thuridur was not necessarily unique. Indeed, fishing was one of the few occupations where pay between genders was equal. However, Captain Thuridur, without any family support, rose further becoming a well-respected leader. Not only a leader of her crew but a leader within the community; seeking justice and speaking out on behalf of the underprivileged. Although generally well thought of, she did have enemies, and her good fortune at times abandoned her. Despite a lifetime of hard labour in dangerous environments, she lived to old age. She never gave up, she defined resilience and fortitude.

Margaret Wilson reveals the story of Thuridur's life through a series of interesting tales and events. The notation of family names, cross relationships, generations, and farming echoes Icelandic sagas and their rich, proud history. Although Wilson tries to uniquely identify people who often share the same name, it can get confusing as the story moves on. However, her level of detail both in reference to Thuridur and of Iceland at that time is thorough, giving the reader a real sense of what Captain Thuridur lived through. It is nice to know that this once lauded woman, obscured through history, has been brought to life in such a telling way.

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I picked up this book because Iceland is one my favorite places and I love to read anything new about Iceland. but this book was a roller coaster of 1 star to 5 stars and back again. The subject was great and the research phenomenal. The book just dragged and had a lot of filler about other people that I could have done without. It was when I got to the end of the book and was reading the authors afterword about her trip to Iceland that I realized what I really wanted was a book that retraced the authors journey learning about Thuridur, talking to descendants of people in the book, and a shorter history of Thuridur's life.

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A monument for an „unsung“ heroine of Iceland
Every so often I get to review a truly outstanding book.This historical narrative nonfiction focusing on the extraordinary life of Thurídur Einarsdóttir of Iceland in the 19th century is one of those books. Rarely do we know about outstanding women of past ages unless they belonged to the ruling class. And it is a very welcoming surprise that Willson discovered and was able to research the accounts of Thurídur, whose life started as a lowely peasant in rural Iceland who made her mark despite being low-born and a woman.
By chance records of Thurídur‘s life still exist and adding a lot and in detail of research of times and locale Willson weaves together those historical accounts into a gripping tale. Her prose near perfectly matches the stark landscape and exacting, scarce life of people on this remote island (Let me mention that there are some rough patches where the narrative very suddenly changes course, but overall the narrative is doing the subject more than justice).
I loved how Willson depicts vividly the harsh life on Iceland: the abject poverty, the bone-breaking work, the challenges of fishing, the plights of families and communities, the severe laws governing the country. Willson captures Thurídur‘s love of the ocean, the fishing in open rowing boats, her leadership as captain in beautiful language and with great depth. The evocative images still sing inside of me and I am still shivering with cold by merely thinking about all those long days and nights spend in open boats and no means of getting warm during and after being on the ocean.
And Thurídur - what a wonderful upright, warm, hard-working woman she is and how many tribulations and challenges she has to face. Nothing is ever secure, poverty is always lurking. I still feel her inner calm, her strength, her compassion and her fire and what comes to mind is the old adage of those giants on whose shoulders we stand today: Thurídur certainly is one of those giants who showed what women were and are capable of.
And although Thurídur did admirably a man‘s job and basically lived liked a man, dressed in male clothes and always strifed for her independence Willson avoids the pitfall of putting Thurídur into the pigeonholes of modern gender theory. Thurídur had her own agenda and she richly deserves this book where Willson lets us into Thurídur‘s world and gives us the means to understand this remarkable woman in the framework of her own times and believes. She is a role model that at all times and even in the direst circumstances women can stand out and find their own way.

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Wow. I had never heard of this woman or her story and oh how interesting it was. Captain Thurídur, a strong and courageous woman, a sea captain, a fighter for women's rights. This is a woman worth reading about.

This is a well written book the is a great history lesson but not a boring one. And although tis is a true story, a non-fiction book it still took you on a ride, pulled you into this marvelous woman's story and made you want to read more.

It is also so good to read a tail like this about someone not so well known, in a place not often told about (Iceland) in a time so long ago (19800's) and better still about a women in a mans world and doing such a great job. She is courageous, passionate and strong. This is a book of harsh conditions, survival and so much more and I am so glad I had the opportunity to read this most wonderful book.

I highly recommend it and hope it is read by people around the world.

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This was a fascinating story about an Icelandic woman sea captain in the 1800's and the struggles she went through to pursue her passion. The book isn't dry, but rather reads like a mystery or dramatic novel. Captain Thuridur struggled as many women do in men-dominated spaces to demonstrate her capability and garner respect. Once she does, it's also noted that she was benevolent and would go out of her way to help others less fortunate than herself. She has to overcome harsh weather, crew and loved ones drowning at sea, an unfair compensation system by a government that sees seafaring people as a lower class. I enjoyed reading this story and learning about a topic I knew nothing about beforehand. The author has presented a book clearly based in research and I recommend it!

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An Amazing story about Thuridur a woman sea captain that lived in Iceland in the 1800's, who lived her life her way no matter what difficulties was laid before her.

The book reads like a novel that is intriguing and adventurous. The story of the Captain starts as a fisherman at a very young age where women didn't venture, but she did anyway and did very well. Through her hard work and integrity Thuridur was able to become a captain, and her capability as a Captain brought her respect. It was also known that she would go out of her way to help others less fortunate than herself and she would see that justice would be given to them no matter what.

There is a lot of tragedy in this story too, the harsh conditions Thuridur had to endure to survive was unbearable a lot of the time, death of loved ones through drowning at sea, disease and childhood ailments and an unfair government system that view Icelanders as outsiders and not allow a fair share of compensation, but again she manage to get through all of it and live into her eighties.

What I really like about this book is that it puts a light on a women in the 1800's, that no one knew existed and now the world will know and it great.

I want to thank SOURCEBOOKS (non-fiction), Sourcebooks and NetGalley for an advance copy of this book about an extraordinary life

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Woman, Captain, Rebel: The Extraordinary True Story of a Daring Icelandic Sea Captain by Margaret Willson is an excellent nonfiction shining light on the surprisingly hidden, larger than life Captain Thurídur. I loved learning about her!

This is the story of a fascinating woman that broke many barriers, wore many hats, had many talents, and left a true mark on history. Thurídur Einarsdóttir was testing preconceived notions and expectations of what women really were capable of and where they belonged in a time that really limited women’s roles in society (1777 to 1863).

The author clearly has passion and has done her research. All of this is reflected in her notes, extra points, reference, tables, and lists. It all really helps understand the language, culture, and history of Iceland, its past, and its people.

As I mentioned in the opening paragraph, I loved learning about this amazing woman, and I am glad that she has a chance to finally shine.

5/5 stars

Thank you NG and Sourcebooks (nonfiction) for this wonderful arc and in return I am submitting my unbiased and voluntary review and opinion.

I am posting this review to my GR and Bookbub accounts immediately and will post it to my Amazon, Instagram, and B&N accounts upon publication on 1/10/2023.

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