I have a very romantic relationship with reading, involving weeks of binging and then months of not even touching a book. But since I am trying to stay up to date with all of the latest apps and their features and read more in my off time, I went ahead and downloaded Goodreads. I have several friends who are very active on Goodreads, and I only wish that I could be so dedicated! I started my account this past summer, and set a conservative goal for myself of finishing one book a month for the duration of the year. Well, I am ashamed to say, I did not rise to the challenge! So it is a new year, and my new goal for the year is 20.
My one book that I have recently finished, making my current reading progress in the new year 1/20, was The Ivory Vikings by Nancy Brown.
This was an enjoyable book about the current theories regarding the origins and intentions behind the creation of the Lewis Chessmen. The author draws heavily on written sources, primarily Norse sagas and religious documentation from the surrounding periods of when the chessmen are thought to have been created. Her writing style is creative, and she sets the stage for the surrounding world.
I appreciate the sections about the walrus as an animal itself, as many academics tend to leave out in depth information about the materials of the actual objects being discussed. Readers will embark on a journey from the walrus swimming in the ocean to the mysterious discovery of the Lewis chessmen in the modern age.
My reasoning for the three stars that I gave the book on Goodreads comes from my different school of thought when it comes to interpreting the primary sources that Brown uses to base and dispute theories from. I tend to take these writing with a grain of salt and find some of her connections slightly tenuous. However, Brown points out that most theories surrounding the Lewis Chessmen are tenuous and conflicting, so why shouldn’t she have the opportunity to do the same?
Brown also seemed to encompass different historical sources fairly, balancing evidence from primary and secondary historical sources, archaeology, anthropology, and academic theories with each other. As a result, this book would be great for a reader with a moderate level of interest who perhaps has not extensively read any sagas, and wants to peruse more challenging and in depth information regarding Norse society, history, art, and the commerce of the Northern world.
At the end of her book, Brown discusses the grouping of chessmen that now reside at the National Museum Scotland in Edinburgh, and how they came to live there. I will not go into those details here- you will have to read the book or do some research to find out more! However, I will say that during my time at university in Scotland, I definitely got the sense that the Scottish museums believed that since they were found in Scotland, they should be displayed in Scotland. But alas, that is not how things operate in the UK. Today, 82 pieces from the hoard are owned by the British Museum in London, while only 11 can be seen in Scotland.
When I was at the NMS this past November, I took a few snapshots of the Lewis Chessmen on display there with the idea that I would one day finish this blog post for you all! Thanks for reading, and I hope you check out Brown’s book. If you do or if you already have, comment below and let me know what your thoughts were! Or let me know how you are doing in YOUR Goodreads challenge so far this year!
Peace and long life.