The Ice-Shirt (A Book of North American Landscape, Vol 1)
by William T. Vollmann
Release Date: August, 1993
This was the first Vollmann novel I've ever read, but I may just try another one before all is said and done. The book starts out focusing on norse mythology and legend and leads up to the adventure of Leif Erikson's sisters to Vineland (later the Americas). Interspersed between the history/legend are snippits of a modern iceland/greenland that reflects much of the norms set forth in the more historical portions of the piece. A main theme in the novel seems to be change. This is largely reflected in what "shirt" (or serk) a character is wearing and the change in character based on goals. There is also a sort of sad lesson about the "Skraelings" (or perhaps Eskimos/natives/Indians) and their ultimate demise as a race but passing on of noble traits "definitely not acquired from European teachers...." A good read, but a little confusing at first.
I just finished this novel after a month of intense reading and, in my opinion, it comes close to literary perfection. I can't wait to read Fathers & Crows. The sheer epic brilliance of the scope of this novel (and the following dreams) is bigger than The Blue Shirt. It exceeds Freydis's desire to plant frost-seed. This series won't be forgotten.
But be warned: this book is not for everyone. Suspension of disbelief and the ability to immerse one's mind into strange and inspiring places is necessary. Vollmann will leave you breathless with fatique, and sometimes you will love the world while other times you will despise it.
Buy this book and keep it close. It's always good to get another's perspective.