Sunday, November 21, 2010

Hush by Donna Jo Napoli

Hush tells the story of Melkorka, an Irish princess who was kidnapped by Vikings and taken to Iceland, and rebelled against her captivity by becoming completely mute. Napoli draws from Icelandic folklore, namely the Laxdœla saga, in which Höskuldr purchases Melkorka, believing her to be a mute thrall, and it's not until her son is born and he overhears her speaking that he realizes she can talk.

Napoli's version follows Melkorka from before her capture with her sister Brigid, through the birth of her son in Iceland. I found the story particularly effective in that Napoli is able to portray Melkorka in difficult situations, in a fairly passive role, without making her seem weak or submissive.

It's one of her more difficult books, in that it is often harsh subject matter: kidnapping and slavery being only the beginning of the story. It's not a happy fairy story, that's for certain, and I didn't find it as enchanting as some of Napoli's other works. For all that it's a hard story, it's well told, and if you enjoy the darker side of mythology, I'd suggest this one.

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