Member Reviews

I've never read much about the Vikings, and especially not the Viking women. This was utterly fascinating and I really think it will be well-read at our library. We are definitely purchasing!

Was this review helpful?

The Northwomen by Heather Pringle blends creative storytelling with academic research to bring the reader on an engaging journey through the lives of Viking era women. Moving from royal halls to slave huts, from urban centers to far flung settlements, the book provides a sweeping overview with a detailed end section for readers who want to dig deeper into specific areas. While some readers may find the purely invented stories that begin each section distracting, they are brief and serve to humanize the research that follows, allowing another route into the information for readers who prefer a more narrative approach.

An excellent addition for a larger public library or an academic library that serves an undergraduate humanities population, this book expands on works like The Bones of Birka by C. M. Surrisi, provides a historical foundation for works like Woman, Captain, Rebel by Margaret Willson, and provides a scholarly context for fantastical works like Neil Gaiman's Norse Mythology and Genevieve Gornichec Witch's Heart. Thank you to NetGalley for access to this fantastic arc.

Was this review helpful?

This was a really good book about the many contributions of women to Viking society. If you have any interest in women’s history, or enjoy reading about Vikings, I highly recommend this book.

Was this review helpful?

Have you ever been watching Wardruna on Youtube and thought, "I wish I could read this feeling?" Heather Pringle does such a great job writing in an interesting and engaging way about the Vikings. Especially, since Viking men get a lot more attention than the women... shocking I know.
I loved finding proof of an actual woman Viking warrior. That there could actually be women warriors and not just Valkyrie representations. Also, the mystery of who the two ladies on the most badass burial ship could be.... maybe sorceresses, who were super important.

This book is pretty great if you want to learn about Vikings from a perspective that was largely ignored, maybe not by actual Vikings but definitely by the people who came after them. I also really liked that each section it started with a point of view of the woman who we would learn about.

Thank you Netgalley for an ARC copy in exchange for my honest review.

Was this review helpful?

Excellent herstory of Scandinavia and the Vikings from about 600 AD to 1200 AD. The many contributions of women to Viking society were described, including how to make a sail for the long boats from sheep to fabric. The Scandinavians/Vikings were more active in continental Europe through Constantinople than many history textbooks describe, and this book fills that gap and adds women's history to the story.

Was this review helpful?

Other than some vague ideas about ships and brutish men, I knew nothing about Vikings before I read The Northwomen. Pringle divides her book about the women of the Viking age by roles they might have played: sorceresses, protectors, weavers, slaves, etc. The tone of Pringle’s research is very casual, and her writing is easy to read.

I found many of the stories fascinating, and I’ve shared snippets with my family. I didn’t know that Vikings reached North America 471 years before Christopher Columbus and that one reason they didn’t settle more permanently was probably because of the Indigenous people who did not want them there. Huh! Another fascinating story was that of the discovery of the bones of a presumed male Viking warrior. Years of close study and testing have now revealed that the warrior was female, an idea that caused major controversy among those who study this stuff.

So, as a novice Viking enthusiast, The Northwomen captivated me. I don’t know how it would land for someone more experienced in this history.

One issue I noticed repeatedly is that Pringle threw out several caveats in relation to her assertions about the roles of Viking women. Words such as “likely,” “probably,” “possibly,” and “maybe” undermined many of her assertions, so I was left unsure as to the veracity of some of her claims. The history of Viking men seems more settled, which proves Pringle’s point that Viking women have been underrepresented in history.

Overall, I enjoyed the book, and it has inspired me to learn more about Vikings.

Was this review helpful?

Viking, who knows about Viking nowadays except our assumption that Viking is an old barbarian that already diminishes over all the world. Heather Pringle portrayal about a Viking woman give me another perspective about Vikings that without Vikings, the world will never be the same again.

Was this review helpful?

This suffers from the same problem that many history books I have reviewed lately. There is simply not enough information on these historical figures to write a book. While I understand the limitations when writing women's histories and appreciate the desire to tell women's stories, it just is not holding my interest as written.

Was this review helpful?

"THE NORTHWOMEN" by Heather Pringle presents a groundbreaking revisionist narrative that reshapes our understanding of Viking history, particularly highlighting the pivotal roles played by women during this era. Often overshadowed by their male counterparts in popular history, these women were far from just homemakers; they were warriors, traders, sorceresses, artisans, explorers, settlers, landowners, power brokers, and even queens.

Pringle, a renowned science journalist, utilizes the latest archaeological discoveries and historical research to craft a compelling portrait of these formidable women. Her narrative not only recasts them as central figures in the Viking world but also as early proponents of a surprisingly modern gender ideology. This book is a must-read for anyone interested in the untold stories of history and provides a fascinating insight into how these women shaped the medieval world, leaving a legacy that challenges our contemporary understanding of gender roles.

With its rich detail and engaging storytelling, "THE NORTHWOMEN" appeals to fans of provocative historical narratives and epic tales like "Game of Thrones," offering a real-world account of power, influence, and resilience.

Was this review helpful?

I absolutely love reading history books. And I have been looking for a good Viking book for a while and I finally found it. This book had my attention the whole time. And it covered topics that I feel like are not talked about enough.

Was this review helpful?

Phenomenal! I’ve wanted to read a book about the history of the Vikings for years, but I just never made the time to sit down and read one. What an excellent choice this one was! The Northwomen was such a readable book, and I loved the format of starting each section with a story that pertained to the information to follow.

Heather Pringle made the history of Viking women feel accessible and beyond fascinating. There were several parts where I eagerly flew through pages, hoping to find what happened next in the mystery of how the Vikings did what they did and who the Viking women were. I genuinely encountered something I was hooked by in every part, but the most surprisingly captivating one was the section about the weavers. The amount of time and energy they poured into just one sea blanket was wild! I’m tempted to leave several of my favorite facts here, but I think those tidbits should be discovered through Pringle’s writing. Just know that my husband has learned more about the Vikings over the past couple of weeks than he ever cared to know. I had no idea that the women were so involved in aspects of, well, everything! From exploring to trading to crafting to leading, the Viking women had a hand in it all.

I also appreciated that Pringle didn’t gloss over the cruelty of the Vikings. The terror and violence inflicted on others was honestly shocking at times, and, as Pringle herself says, the ignoring of such horrors would be an injustice to those who experienced them. They weren’t just explorers seeking to grow their lands and wealth; they were often pillagers who murdered, tormented, and trafficked to get what they wanted and to show (and cultivate) their great power.

Pringle truly has a gift for bringing history to life, and it is evident that she has a passion for ensuring that women in history do not get forgotten. Her usage of such a wide variety of resources and the interviews with archaeologists, historians, crafters, etc., provides a well-rounded and thorough experience. I cannot recommend this book enough.

If you have any interest in women’s history, have ever been fascinated by Vikings, or want to truly appreciate all our modern conveniences, this is the book for you!

Thank you to NetGalley and National Geographic for providing me with an ARC in exchange for my honest, unbiased review.

Was this review helpful?

Heather Pringle's "The Northwomen" is a portal into the lives of women in the Viking world, a subject that has been overlooked and sometimes even deliberately obscured by male archeologists. Pringle's work is commendable for its accessible narrative and engaging approach, particularly her use of fictional vignettes at the beginning of each chapter to captivate the reader's imagination.

While Pringle is neither an archaeologist nor a Viking scholar, her interviews with experts and reliance on archaeological reports provide a comprehensive compilation of the current knowledge about Viking women. This book is tailored for the lay reader with a budding interest in Viking history and a specific curiosity about women's roles in that era.

"The Northwomen" may not be a scholarly tome that contributes new findings to academia, but it certainly succeeds in amalgamating scattered information into a single, coherent narrative. For those seeking a deeper exploration of the Viking world, I recommend "Children of Ash and Elm" by Neil Price, who is often quoted in Pringle's book.

"The Northwomen" is a reader-friendly contribution to a significant yet underrepresented part of Viking history, making it a worthy read for enthusiasts and casual readers alike.

This was an ARC review for NetGalley.

Was this review helpful?

This was a major departure from the books I usually read, which are light comedy / historical fiction. But I wanted to take a chance on something completely new and unique. And this book sure is that! I've never read anything like it. It tells the fascinating history of strong women and the paths they chose with their lives. And how they affected women then and in the future, their community, and the world. I am truly so grateful to have been given the opportunity to read this book. It was fantastic.

Was this review helpful?

This was a beautifully done way of showing the women behind the Norse world. It was everything that I was looking for in this type of book and had that historical element that I wanted. Heather Pringle has a great writing style and I hope to read more like this from the author.

Was this review helpful?