Twenty – year old Lilja is in love. She becomes smitten with an older, handsome university student and moves into his cramped flat. Seduced by the newfound intimacy of a shared bed and showers and fuelled by the desire to please him, she doesn’t realise when his quiet and pervasive manipulations start to unravel her.
His acts of imperceptible abuse continue to mount as their relationship develops. Desperate to be the perfect lover, Lilja gradually permits him to cross all boundaries, unable to break free from the toxic cycle. And then an unexpected ultimatum: an all consuming love, or the promise of a life reclaimed. Urgent and visceral, Thora Hjorleifsdottir explores the darkest corners of relationships, exposing the commonplace undercurrents of violence that often go undetected. Magma depicts the unspooling of a tender – hearted young woman aching to love and be loved.
Thanks to Emma at Bookbreak for the gifted copy of Magma. This very short book is written in a freeflowing poetic way about a toxic, abusive relationship. Lilja loves ‘him’ and has a addictive reliance to him. Desperate for him to love her back she succumbs to more and more bad behaviour, losing herself in the process.
Trigger warnings for this book are identified as Self Harm, Sexual Violence and an abusive relationship. This man is often indifferent, demanding sexually and critical, he is controlling in a pervasive way that gradually erodes her friendships, creating isolation and dependency. He seems to thrive on her pain and is at his most tender when she is sad and hurt.
The author suggests at the beginning that relationships of this nature are often a reality for women and I was struck, reflecting on the impact of men on women, who at best are all too often silenced, marginalised or second best. For men there is the entitlement of living in a world they were made for and traversing through this.
This is a hardhitting read, it does feel dark and heavy as we watch Lilja lose sight of herself, her very being, her feelings of worthlessness and self loathing are tangible and parts of this book are painful to read. Would I recommend it? Its difficult to say to be honest, it offers a reflection on an abusive relationship and it’s slow emergence, which could be helpful but I wonder if the lyrical writing would really resonate. That said I personally did not find this difficult to read.
About the Author
Thora Hjorleifsdottir has published three poetry collections with her poetry collective, Imposter Poets. She lives in Reykavik. Magma is her first novel.
Meg Matich earned her Master of Fine Arts from Columbia University’s Creative Writing program. She’s received support for her literary translation work from DAAD, the Icelandic Centre (through publishers), PEN, and the Fulbright Commission. She has translated poery into English and Icelandic for UNESCO, as a representative of Reykjavik UNESCO in Lviv, Ukraine.