Apr 23, 2010

No One Thinks of Greenland

by John Griesemer

In the 1950's a young corporal in the army named Rudy gets mistakenly sent to Greenland, where a secret military hospital houses severely wounded soldiers from the Korean war. They are kept there until they die, then reported suddenly found to their families (who assumed them missing-in-action) with no details disclosed...

Rudy finds himself assigned to create a newspaper for the hospital base, and with it gets special clearance to enter "the Wing" where the wounded are tended. Feeling a journalistic spirit, he starts to unfold stories about the hospital, the soldiers and wounded there, but as he digs for information and begins to uncover secrets, things start to unravel around him... Not to mention that he finds his superior's aide/girlfriend irresistibly attractive, and the Colonel is a dangerous man to cross. The setting has an unreal, foreboding quality- wide flat vistas, towering icy walls of glaciers, flaming color in the sky, light stretching into night and then reversing so that darkness reaches into every hour. The violence at the end was shocking, but did not surprise me too much; after all, they called the time of winter "The Stark Raving Dark." Descriptions of No One Thinks of Greenland might come across as just some conspiracy thriller, but the book is much more than that. The characters have considerable depth. Rudy in particular wrestles with his conscience, occasionally does inexplicably crazy things, is awed by the landscape, confused by his own presence there. In this strange and remote place, he begins to find himself in ways he never did back home where everything was easier, and safer.

This book has been on my TBR long enough that I don't recall how it got there. (Thus I read it for the TBR challenge). I think I picked up my copy at a thrift store, but am no longer sure.

In an aside from the story, a few times in the novel the abandoned Viking settlement of Greenland was mentioned, a place forgotten by civilization when the Black Plague struck Europe. When it was rediscovered, one of the characters states, "there were only a few stunted, inbred people left, practicing some weird kind of Christianity. A real lost civilization." I've never heard of this Viking settlement before. I'd like to read more about it- does anyone know some good historical fiction on the subject?

Rating: 3/5 ........ 310 pages, 2001

More opinions at: fun. Anyone else?


Cath said...

Sounds like a very interesting book! I don't know of any fiction about the settlement but I knew of it from a BBC documentary from a couple of years ago. It was the changing climate that did for them in the end I gather. Apparently Greenland wasn't always a frozen wasteland. These people grew crops and led a normal life until the climate put a stop to it some centuries ago. It's fascinating.

Jenny said...

This does sound interesting! I'd never heard of that settlement in Greenland, so if you do turn up any historical fiction about it, I'll be intrigued to see what you think.

Betty said...

I think it's Jane Smiley who wrote a historical novel called 'Greenland'.
I enjoyed it.s

Jeane said...

Cath- yes, they mentioned briefly the change of climate, too. I'd like to know more about it!

Jenny- going to do some searching...

Betty- Thanks! I've read a few by Jane Smiley, and liked them well; have to look for this title now!