The Faroes: The Faraway Islands

This summer I am excited to be returning to the Faroe Islands, where I had first visited in 2003. I have long dreamt to go back and this time I will be showing the islands to Mark for the first time. We plan to stay in Tórshavn and visit Sørvágur, Mykines and Klaksvík. Thus I will be seeing two islands that I hadn’t visited before. I visited four of the Faroes last time. My reading project now will be to read all of the books I have on the Faroe Islands that are heretofore unread. This vacation will also see Mark and me returning to Iceland for the third time and ending the holiday with friends in Berlin. I have plenty of books about Iceland that I bought during my 2015 trip that are still unread, as well as a book about Berlin, but I will concentrate on reading all of my Faroe books first.

The Faroes: The Faraway Islands by Anthony Jackson was divided into two sections. The first was an island history dating back to the first documented visit in the sixth century. The second part was a tour where the author wrote an exhaustive account of every single town, village and hamlet on this north Atlantic archipelago. I don’t think there is–at least in English–any other book that described every settlement–even abandoned ones–in such detail. If I start with the second part first, Jackson himself travelled from island to island, by car, ferry and on foot. He wrote about each road he took and paths he trekked. A document of each settlement wherein the author listed the population, number of houses (even their colours), amenities and geographical features sounds more appealing than what the actual reading experience entailed. I found the driving instructions boring perhaps because I am a nondriver and pay no interest to road numbers or conditions. Thank goodness Jackson included detailed maps for each island in this travel section. I kept flipping back to see where he was off to next. Yet one church soon resembled another church and most villages had the same layout flanking both sides of a river, so the descriptions got tired pretty fast. Fortunately the maps kept my interest otherwise I would have dreaded reading more of the same old about turfed roofs and tarred walls.

I found the most interesting parts of Faroese history to be the development of a Faroese orthography in 1846; its fishing superstitions (and there were plenty of them); and the prohibition on alcohol which was still in effect in some form at the time of the book’s publication. We travelled back one thousand five hundred years to learn of the first sighting of the archipelago and its settlements to the islands’ quest for independence from Denmark. The Faroese economy is led by the fishery yet farming, whaling and fowling is practised on a local level.

The Faroes are green and the houses can be quite colourful. It was thus disappointing to see only black-and-white photos inserted within the text. This book was published in 1991 so colour photos likely would have been cost-prohibitive. Jackson included four generous photo sections however I would have appreciated some photos adjacent to his all-round island tour that described some especially dazzling sights.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *