Bibliophile reviews Last places (travel) by Lawrence Millman

Year published: 1990
Genre: Travel (non-fiction)
Setting & time: Norway, the Shetland Islands, The Faeroe Islands, Iceland, Greenland, Canada (Newfoundland); 1980's

In the mid 1980's the author took a journey tracing the route thought to have been taken by the Vikings in their quest for new lands to settle, from Norway to Canada, through the Shetland Islands, the Faeroes, Iceland and Greenland. It took him four months and he visited the countries in the same order as the Vikings did, in each country visiting lonely places and trying to find and understand the Viking heritage. In the Shetlands he searched for speakers of Norn, the old Nordic language of the islands that was all but eradicated by the British and is not spoken fluently by anyone any more. In the Faeroe Islands he visits the loneliest place he can find, and later witnesses a grindadráp, a slaughter of pilot whales. In Iceland he visits Askja, a spectacular crater lake in the hightlands, and in Greenland he takes a wilderness hike. In Newfoundland he visits Lance Aux Meadows, where a Viking settlement has been excavated, and goes to a lonely beach where he and his guide encounter a strange kind of pollution.

The book does not tell the story of the Vikings, but is rather an attempt to understand their influence upon the places where they settled and of the places on them, and to try to see what those places were like before they were settled.

Millman writes a very readable style, and as he is mostly writing about places I know or should know, I found the book very interesting. Ultimately, of course, the journey was not made for the sake of discovery, but for the sake of the journey, something it has in common with some of the best travellogues ever written.

Rating: An interesting and eccentric travelogue. 4 stars.


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