Review Blog

Feb 04 2020

When we were Vikings by Andrew David MacDonald

cover image

Simon and Schuster, 2019. ISBN: 9781982148713.
(Age: 16+) Highly recommended. Zelda is unusual. She has a fascination with all things to do with Vikings, and she wants to live her life by their code. We learn that she suffered brain damage at birth due to her mother's alcoholism during pregnancy. Now, having escaped from creepy Uncle Richard, it is just her and her brother struggling to get by. But the problem is that in order to get away and set up their new life, her brother Gert has become embroiled with thugs and the world of crime. There are some dark scenes in this novel, but throughout it all we are buoyed by Zelda's curiosity, her naive questions and literal interpretations of what people say. It will make you laugh, but at the same time you know that she is in danger and some of the people around her are really bad characters.
This novel has been compared to A critical incident of the dog in the night-time, but this is definitely an adult version. Zelda is 21, and she wants to have sex with her boyfriend Marxy, a fellow participant in the community centre programs for 'different' people. The people around her have varying attitudes to her interest in sex, from her counsellor, Dr Laird, to Marxy's mother Pearl, to her brother Gert, to her friend AK47, Gert's ex-girlfriend. But Zelda is very strong willed and determined to do what she wants.
It is that determination and courage, part of the Viking code of honour, that sees her enter some very dangerous situations, in the quest to become her own legend, and save her brother from danger.
This novel will keep you laughing and engaged until the end. And you can't help but admire Zelda's determination and courage; it is her values that are at the heart of the novel, and ultimately see her conquer the evil Grendels.
Helen Eddy

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