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"Blame it or praise it, there is no denying the wild horse in us."—Virgina Woolf Each June, Tory Bilski meets up with fellow women travelers in Reykjavik where they head to northern Iceland, near the Greenland Sea. They escape their ordinary lives to live an extraordinary one at a horse farm perched at the edge of the world. If only for a short while. When they first came to "Blame it or praise it, there is no denying the wild horse in us."—Virgina Woolf Each June, Tory Bilski meets up with fellow women travelers in Reykjavik where they head to northern Iceland, near the Greenland Sea. They escape their ordinary lives to live an extraordinary one at a horse farm perched at the edge of the world. If only for a short while. When they first came to Thingeryar, these women were strangers to one another.  The only thing they had in common was their passion for Icelandic horses. However, over the years, their relationships with each other deepens, growing older together and keeping each other young. Combining the self-discovery Eat, Pray, Love, the sense of place of Under the Tuscan Sun, and the danger of Wild, Wild Horses of the Summer Sun revels in Tory's quest for the "wild" inside her. These women leave behind the usual troubles at home: affairs, sick parents, troubled teenagers, financial worries—and embrace their desire for adventure. Buoyed by their friendships with each other and their growing attachments and bonds with the otherworldly horses they ride, the warmth of Tingeryar's midnight sun carries these women through the rest of the year's trials and travails. Filled with adventure and fresh humor, as well as an incredible portrait of Iceland and its remarkable equines, Wild Horses of the Summer Sun will enthrall and delight not just horse lovers, but those of us who yearn for a little more wild in everyday life.  


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"Blame it or praise it, there is no denying the wild horse in us."—Virgina Woolf Each June, Tory Bilski meets up with fellow women travelers in Reykjavik where they head to northern Iceland, near the Greenland Sea. They escape their ordinary lives to live an extraordinary one at a horse farm perched at the edge of the world. If only for a short while. When they first came to "Blame it or praise it, there is no denying the wild horse in us."—Virgina Woolf Each June, Tory Bilski meets up with fellow women travelers in Reykjavik where they head to northern Iceland, near the Greenland Sea. They escape their ordinary lives to live an extraordinary one at a horse farm perched at the edge of the world. If only for a short while. When they first came to Thingeryar, these women were strangers to one another.  The only thing they had in common was their passion for Icelandic horses. However, over the years, their relationships with each other deepens, growing older together and keeping each other young. Combining the self-discovery Eat, Pray, Love, the sense of place of Under the Tuscan Sun, and the danger of Wild, Wild Horses of the Summer Sun revels in Tory's quest for the "wild" inside her. These women leave behind the usual troubles at home: affairs, sick parents, troubled teenagers, financial worries—and embrace their desire for adventure. Buoyed by their friendships with each other and their growing attachments and bonds with the otherworldly horses they ride, the warmth of Tingeryar's midnight sun carries these women through the rest of the year's trials and travails. Filled with adventure and fresh humor, as well as an incredible portrait of Iceland and its remarkable equines, Wild Horses of the Summer Sun will enthrall and delight not just horse lovers, but those of us who yearn for a little more wild in everyday life.  

30 review for Wild Horses of the Summer Sun: A Memoir of Iceland

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jenny (Reading Envy)

    Tory Bilski travels to northwest Iceland with a group of women multiple years in a row to ride Icelandic horses. I think this is best for people who are super interested in horses (this is not me) or Iceland (this is me) and that otherwise the highlights would have made a shorter essay or article. This came out June 7, and I had a copy from the publisher through Edelweiss.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Diane S ☔

    Thoughts soon.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jessica

    Very interesting look at the modern Icelandic horse, what they're like to train, to ride, how there is a growing appreciation for them outside of Iceland. I kind of wish that Bilski had either gone full lecturer and just focused on Icelandic horses, or gone full self-help and focused on the spiritual nature of her trips, but I get a feeling that she realized that she is not knowledgeable enough about either thing. Twice during the book she relates awkward conversations she has with people in the Very interesting look at the modern Icelandic horse, what they're like to train, to ride, how there is a growing appreciation for them outside of Iceland. I kind of wish that Bilski had either gone full lecturer and just focused on Icelandic horses, or gone full self-help and focused on the spiritual nature of her trips, but I get a feeling that she realized that she is not knowledgeable enough about either thing. Twice during the book she relates awkward conversations she has with people in the US where they ask her, So you go to Iceland and ride horses? and then she realizes that they don't care much about her answer. This book sort of feels like someone said to her, You should write a book about your adventures! And then . . . she did. She just really, really loves the horses, but there's nothing more profound than that. (I mean, that's a fine reason, but still.) She isn't a vet or a breeder, and not even a super strong rider. She goes once a year for a week, but misses several of the trips due to health or family issues. So it really is just some notes of a few of her vacations. I want to know more about the trainer whose horses they ride every year, because at the END of the book, when the woman, Helga, announces she has sold the farm, she suddenly coughs up the info that she's the first female breeder, is stunningly beautiful, has literally stopped traffic in America with her exotic looks, etc. And it's like, Wait, what? So I'm going to try and Google Helga, but other than that, I mostly just feel a bit sad that Bilski's adventures are probably over? And that several times random things ruined the trip for her, like catty fellow travelers and a weird illness that was never diagnosed.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Saar The Book owl

    These were our tales, these were the times, these were the women, and this was the place. This line from the end of the book wraps up the whole adventure. I enjoyed reading this book so much and it felt like Tori, Sylvie, Eve, Allie, Margot...were my friends, being the horse girl that I am. The author didn't know them really when she went on the first trip and after 11 years they were like a second family to each other. Reading about their adventures, I shared a tear and more than one laught These were our tales, these were the times, these were the women, and this was the place. This line from the end of the book wraps up the whole adventure. I enjoyed reading this book so much and it felt like Tori, Sylvie, Eve, Allie, Margot...were my friends, being the horse girl that I am. The author didn't know them really when she went on the first trip and after 11 years they were like a second family to each other. Reading about their adventures, I shared a tear and more than one laughter. It's not only a book about women and horses, that would be a huge cliché and will do this great book no good at all. It's more than that: it's about friendship, life lessons, the beautiful and interesting history of Iceland (I was surprised about the history of Agnes Magnusdottir in the book, as I've read the book 'Burial rites' from Hannah Kent about Agnes) and, of course, the spiritual bond between a person and the beautiful and mystifying Icelandic horse.

  5. 4 out of 5

    emmy

    I had hesitations about this book because it felt to me like it would probably be a fairly conventional white woman’s memoir. I gave it a chance because I, too, love Icelandic horses. On page 15, as a non-binary reader, I was alienated by a joke: “if we can live in an era where people can be gender fluid, I think we can be age fluid as well.” This joke is unnecessary and betrays a deep misunderstanding of trans identities, and now I know that this book was never meant for me. So disappointing.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Hannah Truman

    I sped through this book. The first 2/3 of it is both fun and funny (the descriptions of her friend group had me laughing out loud) while the ending had me in tears. As a horse rider, I also appreciated how much I learned about Icelandics--seemed really well-researched and piqued my interest in the bred/Iceland's horse history. Sincerely recommend. I sped through this book. The first 2/3 of it is both fun and funny (the descriptions of her friend group had me laughing out loud) while the ending had me in tears. As a horse rider, I also appreciated how much I learned about Icelandics--seemed really well-researched and piqued my interest in the bred/Iceland's horse history. Sincerely recommend.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Amanda Carlucci

    3/3.5 I like this memoir. I really do. But I'm struggling with the structure of the book. I was hoping for more about Iceland and it's unique horses and less personal life memoir. However, it wasn't as much of a setback as it could've been. I'm not one to read a "girlfriends" style book, and Bilski doesn't strike me as someone who would either. Her introverted and rational personality is a lot like mine, in fact, and I found a connection with her through her writing. Her dry humor wasn't lost wi 3/3.5 I like this memoir. I really do. But I'm struggling with the structure of the book. I was hoping for more about Iceland and it's unique horses and less personal life memoir. However, it wasn't as much of a setback as it could've been. I'm not one to read a "girlfriends" style book, and Bilski doesn't strike me as someone who would either. Her introverted and rational personality is a lot like mine, in fact, and I found a connection with her through her writing. Her dry humor wasn't lost with me, either, and we probably could be friends in real life. Also I would most likely be just as awkward as she was around a group of women for the first time. Basically: This is NOT as "girly" of a book as the synopsis implies, which was a pleasant surprise for me. Bilski and I also both enjoy everything Nordic - especially Iceland and Icelandic horses, which was the reason I bought the book in the first place. But, as I mentioned, there wasn't enough of that here. However, there was just enough to whet my appetite, learn more about the horses, and dream of going to Iceland. So there's that.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Ashes

    I am here for the horses. All the other social and group dynamics are secondary. Or tertiary. I'm here for the horses, the sense of place, and, lastly, the company. Just like the author in the quote above, I'm here for the horses. Horses and Iceland. The women were not my reason for reading this book. So of course, I expected it to be more about the horses. With some background about the Icelandic breed itself. All of it was there, but it wasn't, sadly, the focus. Still, I liked it. And it was I am here for the horses. All the other social and group dynamics are secondary. Or tertiary. I'm here for the horses, the sense of place, and, lastly, the company. Just like the author in the quote above, I'm here for the horses. Horses and Iceland. The women were not my reason for reading this book. So of course, I expected it to be more about the horses. With some background about the Icelandic breed itself. All of it was there, but it wasn't, sadly, the focus. Still, I liked it. And it was light reading, something you can stretch your legs with on a comfy sofa and dive into to find yourself out there in the windy Iceland with the sturdy horses with names such as Loki, Freya or Gnott. That girl-team of theirs is great, too. I admit I wasn't much interested in the Icelandic horse before, but I sure am now! Further reading: A Good Horse Has No Color: Searching Iceland for the Perfect Horse

  9. 4 out of 5

    Lisa of Hopewell

    I learned of this book here: https://librofulltime.wordpress.com/2... If you are a horse lover, you may already know that one of Iceland’s greatest natural resources are it’s horses. Short and sturdy, Icelandics are somewhat like the Fell Ponies we’ve seen Queen Elizabeth ride in recent years. Tory writes vividly of the trail rides, which for me were the highlight of the book: “The horses pick up the pace. They vie to be in the front of the pack. This is what horses are like in Iceland because they I learned of this book here: https://librofulltime.wordpress.com/2... If you are a horse lover, you may already know that one of Iceland’s greatest natural resources are it’s horses. Short and sturdy, Icelandics are somewhat like the Fell Ponies we’ve seen Queen Elizabeth ride in recent years. Tory writes vividly of the trail rides, which for me were the highlight of the book: “The horses pick up the pace. They vie to be in the front of the pack. This is what horses are like in Iceland because they aren’t coddled like pets. They are brought up in semi-feral conditions: the young and the mares are set free for many months, driven into the mountains to live off the land with no human care. Since they are left to forage for food and water on tier own and figures things out for themselves, they grow to be healthy, sturdy, and for the most part, sane.” The horses have four or even six gaits. The six gait horses are from a genetic mutation. Riding a horse through all of those gates must be a bit like getting a Semi through a short, uphill intersection for the first time. It takes practice to for the horse and practice for the rider to not only post properly, but to get the horse to agree to the different gaits. “I gotta go Iceland“ Author Tory and friends, one of whom was among the first to import Icelandic horses into the United States, began going to the same horse farm in Iceland as an annual get-a-way, recharging mission, and gal-pal road trip on their favorite breed of horses. Horses that even swim them places! Now, that is my kind of road trip!! All of the women are in mid-life, in the 40 to late 50-ish years of yo-yo-ing young adult children, aging parents. The marriages are settled and allow for alone time. The jobs are a now not stressful from inexperience but are now routine. “Going Iceland” is what they think of when the stress gets to them. In Iceland the worries are on another continent and for a week life is reduced to riding amazing horses in the beautiful natural world surrounding them. Unique Icelandic Odd Horses Beautiful Cute Icelandic Horse photo credit The trips are not without problems–one year it’s a mean girl clique, another year its a visit to a new touristy horse farm where anyone, even a novice, can ride Icelandics with a German, Norwegian or other hired guide working for the farm. This causes the ladies to see how truly blessed to have “their” farm to visit all those years. There are fun side-trips to Iceland’s many quirky museums–a cod canning museum that recreates the workers living quarters is on–there are others celebrating folk lore, fishing and maritime history among other subjects (I actually knew of this–a professor of mine at I.U. wrote a book on the Anglo-Icelandic Cod War). Then there’s the horse show where they are rescue by Iceland’s answer to George Clooney and the ladies imagine one of their own being swept off her feet by him! As Game of Thrones and various movies put Iceland on the tourist map, changes come to Iceland. The capital city, Reykjavik, goes from town to city, albeit a still-small city and suburbs begin sprouting around it. What changes are coming for the nation and its horses? The ladies start seeing writing on the wall, but choose to turn their heads–exactly s I would do! Your own version of paradise is just that–your own. Tourists, movie stars, McDonald’s–they can’t take it from you.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Jaimie Bruzenak

    I wonder how many people put riding an Icelandic horse in Iceland on their bucket lists after reading this book? It's a wonderfully written account of a week spent in Iceland over many summers riding horses on a farm near the northern coast. It's also about girlfriends, time just being yourself and these marvelous animals. Over the years, Iceland has gone from a strange place to visit to packed with tourists. I've been to southern Iceland but I definitely want this experience! Unfortunately, it I wonder how many people put riding an Icelandic horse in Iceland on their bucket lists after reading this book? It's a wonderfully written account of a week spent in Iceland over many summers riding horses on a farm near the northern coast. It's also about girlfriends, time just being yourself and these marvelous animals. Over the years, Iceland has gone from a strange place to visit to packed with tourists. I've been to southern Iceland but I definitely want this experience! Unfortunately, it won't be the same, anymore than riding a stable horse on a plodding trail ride is the same as riding your own horse out of the trail. Oh, well. I'm still gonna do it some day!

  11. 4 out of 5

    Aviv Sheriff

    I picked up this memoir because my mom and her cousins went to Iceland and had a great experience. I wanted to learn more and maybe plan a trip. I'm really glad I picked up this book because I knew nothing about the country's horse culture but learned so much. The book was fast-paced and compelling and I laughed quite a bit. Will definitely be suggesting to my mother and her cousins as well. I picked up this memoir because my mom and her cousins went to Iceland and had a great experience. I wanted to learn more and maybe plan a trip. I'm really glad I picked up this book because I knew nothing about the country's horse culture but learned so much. The book was fast-paced and compelling and I laughed quite a bit. Will definitely be suggesting to my mother and her cousins as well.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Alice Kamens

    I had a hard time putting down this adventurous, honest, wondrous memoir. I’m not a rider and I’ve never been to Iceland, but I found myself entirely enthralled by the stories of these women and their annual gatherings. The author’s personality and voice feel clear and frank, and it’s easy to relate to her words and feel completely sucked in to the experience.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Linda Brunner

    If you are a horse lover, and I am...or a lover of female comradery, this book is for you. Essentially a travelogue of the author's years spent riding the horses of Iceland, rubbing elbows with a core group of like minded women and a few not so much and defusing from the sterile commercialism of the U.S. and coming to love the country of Iceland itself. Perceptive, colorful, funny, sensitive observations of the horses, the women and the natural world. I felt like I was there with them and inside If you are a horse lover, and I am...or a lover of female comradery, this book is for you. Essentially a travelogue of the author's years spent riding the horses of Iceland, rubbing elbows with a core group of like minded women and a few not so much and defusing from the sterile commercialism of the U.S. and coming to love the country of Iceland itself. Perceptive, colorful, funny, sensitive observations of the horses, the women and the natural world. I felt like I was there with them and inside the author's head. Beyond that, a lot of fun was had and the years went by and things changed as they are wont to do. From the book: So it alarms me to confess this: I want to be Helga. I want her looks, her horse skills, her uncomplicated identity. I want to live on an Icelandic horse farm. I want to be born Icelandic, to speak the language and be a part of a culture where my ancestors have lived for a thousand years. I want the surety of my place in the world. I want my bones buried here, to dry up and break apart and forever be a part of this island.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Shelleyrae at Book'd Out

    “My first connection was finding a picture of an Icelandic horse on Google. I looked at it everyday and I couldn’t think of anything else.” Tory Bilski is In her early 40’s when she becomes obsessed with the idea of riding an Icelandic horse in it’s native setting. An Equitour whets her appetite but it’s not until she meets Eve, the owner of a horse farm in the Berkshires, that she is able to return to Iceland for the experience she has been yearning for. Over a period of about ten years, for a w “My first connection was finding a picture of an Icelandic horse on Google. I looked at it everyday and I couldn’t think of anything else.” Tory Bilski is In her early 40’s when she becomes obsessed with the idea of riding an Icelandic horse in it’s native setting. An Equitour whets her appetite but it’s not until she meets Eve, the owner of a horse farm in the Berkshires, that she is able to return to Iceland for the experience she has been yearning for. Over a period of about ten years, for a week every summer, Tory accompanies Eve, and a group of up to eight women to Thingeyrar, an Icelandic horse farm owned by breeder and trainer Helga. It’s an opportunity for Tory to leave behind the stresses of ordinary life and connect with the wild horses under the midnight sun. Not every trip is blissful, some are marred by the weather, others by personality clashes, but Bilski is always eager to return, and this travelogue/memoir shares a little of her personal life, her friendship with the women with whom she travels, her experiences in Iceland, and her soul deep connection to the Icelandic horses. “These were our tales, these were the times, these were the women, and this was the place.” Icelandic horses are a special breed, its pedigree is mixed but unique to Iceland, which has not permitted the import of other horses for centuries. Though I have no particular love for horses, I do think the Icelandic breed is appealing, and they look wonderful galloping across the gorgeous Icelandic plains, long manes flying, despite their short and stocky stature. Bilski writes well, and I found Wild Horses of the Summer Sun to be both an engaging and interesting read.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Tom Odinak

    Wild Horses of the Summer Sun is a journey of both body and soul. The Icelandic horse culture fascinated me beyond my expectations. The rugged Icelandic countryside provides a backdrop for some wild adventures. But beyond the account of these events, Tory Bilski's observations and introspective explorations tell a broader story of human experience. I could feel the irresistible pull of the pursuit of an inner passion, while anguishing over its reconciliation with the demands of everyday life. He Wild Horses of the Summer Sun is a journey of both body and soul. The Icelandic horse culture fascinated me beyond my expectations. The rugged Icelandic countryside provides a backdrop for some wild adventures. But beyond the account of these events, Tory Bilski's observations and introspective explorations tell a broader story of human experience. I could feel the irresistible pull of the pursuit of an inner passion, while anguishing over its reconciliation with the demands of everyday life. Her story illuminates the development of personal relationships, and the evolution of a personal lore. Ingeniously, the personal lore that emerges from these experiences is shown to reflect the lore of the sagas from Iceland's own history. Written with humor and sensitivity, a pinch of humility, and exquisite prose, I loved reading this book, and will ponder its personal implications for years to come.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Bethwyn Badger

    I found the descriptions of horses and Iceland to be wondrous and beautiful, but the descriptions and - frankly - judgemental comments about the other women to be frustrating and alienating. The writing style is quite good but a little formulaic and randomly choppy. Just not a book for me, I think! (I received a review copy of this book from netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Thank you!)

  17. 4 out of 5

    Maggies_lens

    VERY much enjoyed the parts about the horses and Iceland, loathed the talk about the other women and their lives :P Flipped through the book just to read those parts after a couple of chapters.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Aviva

    As a self-proclaimed "horse girl", I am used to receiving horse-related birthday gifts. My sister recently gave this to me for my 30th and, per usual, I internally rolled my eyes and thought I'd end up sticking it on a shelf with the rest of "these" sort of books. Then, an unlikely thing happened. I was mid-flight on my way home from vising my sister when my headphones died and *gasp* I had nothing else to do but read this book. What I read moved me so much that I am taking the time now to write As a self-proclaimed "horse girl", I am used to receiving horse-related birthday gifts. My sister recently gave this to me for my 30th and, per usual, I internally rolled my eyes and thought I'd end up sticking it on a shelf with the rest of "these" sort of books. Then, an unlikely thing happened. I was mid-flight on my way home from vising my sister when my headphones died and *gasp* I had nothing else to do but read this book. What I read moved me so much that I am taking the time now to write this review. I have truly never read more beautiful, illustrative writing. The author perfectly describes the exhilaration of the ride, the bond between human and horse; she beautifully weaves in metaphors and keen insights about life, relationships, and sense of self. I could see the landscape, I was with her for the rides. I am so grateful that my headphones died that afternoon - I finished the book the next day. This should be on everybody's summer reading list! I highly recommend.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Gina Sullivan

    First of all - this book is a MUST READ!!!! I also feel the need to get this out there - although I have read hundreds and hundreds of books in my lifetime, I have NEVER written a review before. Mainly because I am one of those people that just "doesn't have time" and leaves the reviewing to others. Now I know that isn't fair of me, especially since I rely on the reviews of others prior to purchasing my books, but it is my reality and I felt I needed to express that so you can understand how muc First of all - this book is a MUST READ!!!! I also feel the need to get this out there - although I have read hundreds and hundreds of books in my lifetime, I have NEVER written a review before. Mainly because I am one of those people that just "doesn't have time" and leaves the reviewing to others. Now I know that isn't fair of me, especially since I rely on the reviews of others prior to purchasing my books, but it is my reality and I felt I needed to express that so you can understand how much I REALLY, REALLY LOVED THIS BOOK! Also, in the interest of honesty, I have to say that if I didn't have a connection to the author's husband, I probably would not have purchased this book to read. I tend to read "mindless" fiction so that I can lose myself in the fantasy of the book and characters. However, I am SO very glad that I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to read Tory's book. And I would also like to say that I am NOT writing this review solely because of my connection - I have this strong need to tell people they are truly missing out on a great read if they pass this one by. I read 3/4 of this book in one day - I only gave up because it was about 10:00 at night and my eyes were closing on me (I finished the remainder after work the following day). You do not need to have an intense love of horses or a desire to go to Iceland to get sooooooooo much out of this book (I had actually never gave either much thought, but now they are both on my bucket list!) . The book is about so much more - there are lots of moments of laughter, moments of envy (because the author's description of the feeling she has when riding the horses is so clear you feel as if you are with her and that you WANT to be with her!), moments of anger (damn that German trainer!) and moments of sadness. I felt so connected with the women in the book I found myself cheering them on - I was happy when they were happy, angry when someone from the group wasn't very nice (jeez - Pippa shouldn't be allowed in public!) and sad when they were sad. There was a time in the book where the author describes having lifestyle envy and she happened to be at the same age in her life that I am now - I could really relate to that! It was something that made me say - oh my God, I'm not the only woman that wants to escape it all!! There are other times when she talks about her son and their relationship - again, my son is now in a similar age group and I thought - thank God, he will become likable again some day!!! It is also a reminder that, as women, we need to keep our connection to our "selves" and not get lost in the everyday b.s. Whether it is riding horses in Iceland, backpacking the Appalachian trail, or scuba diving the Great Barrier Reef - whatever your dream is this book reminds you that you owe it to yourself to lose the fear or restrains that may be holding you back and take the time to be/find yourself. I finished the book with the desire to hear more stories from Tory - I hope she writes another book because she is truly a talented writer and kept me engaged from the first page. To sum up my (sort of long winded...) review - you should DEFINITELY READ THIS BOOK - you won't regret it.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Heather K Veitch

    Woven throughout this memoir is a story of a people, a place, and a mythology of a time when women rode horses to better understand themselves and their world. More than myth are the stories told of these women, from their initial meeting to their annual trips to Iceland to reconnect with the Icelandic horses and the stark beauty of the country itself. Wild Horses of the Summer Sun is an enjoyable and easy read as we journey with Tory to Iceland to meet with fellow travellers and horse lovers Vi Woven throughout this memoir is a story of a people, a place, and a mythology of a time when women rode horses to better understand themselves and their world. More than myth are the stories told of these women, from their initial meeting to their annual trips to Iceland to reconnect with the Icelandic horses and the stark beauty of the country itself. Wild Horses of the Summer Sun is an enjoyable and easy read as we journey with Tory to Iceland to meet with fellow travellers and horse lovers Viv, Kat, Esther, and others. As they come together to explore the countryside and bond with their horses, the women reflect on their lives and what has led each of them to this wild place, and attempt to seek out the wild wisdom and resilience within themselves. “When I die this is how I want to enter the other world, on the back of a horse that is swimming in a cold lake,” reflects Tory part-way through the book. Later, she poignantly muses, “Did I leave my imprint on the history of the land the way it has left its imprint on me?” This is a memoir to savour, to delight in, to laugh with and cry with. It’s a memoir that leaves its own imprint on the reader long after the final pages are turned — and that imprint is borne of the wild winds off the glaciers, the grasses around thundering hooves, the whip of manes and the feel of flying on a horse’s back. I received an e-ARC from the publisher, Pegasus, through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Enchanted Prose

    For the love of Icelandic Horses (2004 – 2015 Thingeyrar Iceland, except ‘06, ‘08, ‘12 Connecticut; Epilogue, 2016 Iceland): Once you see a picture of an Icelandic Horse like the author did while daydreaming at her desk job, you understand why she fell madly in love with these precious, unique animals. But don’t let their small size and adorable looks deceive you. “All the horses get wilder here, their blood filled with the wind and the waves of the Arctic waters.” Even if you’re an equestrian, h For the love of Icelandic Horses (2004 – 2015 Thingeyrar Iceland, except ‘06, ‘08, ‘12 Connecticut; Epilogue, 2016 Iceland): Once you see a picture of an Icelandic Horse like the author did while daydreaming at her desk job, you understand why she fell madly in love with these precious, unique animals. But don’t let their small size and adorable looks deceive you. “All the horses get wilder here, their blood filled with the wind and the waves of the Arctic waters.” Even if you’re an equestrian, how many of us would become so “obsessed” about riding an Icelandic horse in surreal, subarctic Iceland to go to great lengths to actually ride them there? Especially when apparently there are places to ride Icelandic horses in the US, including one in the Berkshires of Massachusetts not too far from the author’s home outside New Haven, Connecticut, where she works at Yale University editing a journal. That Icelandic horse farm triggered the author’s “Icelandophilia.” The two experiences cannot compare by any stretch of our imagination. And this gorgeous memoir lets your imagination run free, as it did for the author. Fifteen years ago, Tory Bilski took her first magical trip with a core group of women her age (middle-aged, one older) to temporarily escape the realities of daily life. Back then, not many people were even traveling to Iceland on Icelandair – the only international airline that flies into the country. Landing in Keflavík (not Reykjavik, the capital), the view is bleak, Mars-like. Today, Iceland is a hot destination, but if you only know it as a stopover to Europe or elsewhere, you cannot imagine that the closer you get to the Arctic Sea overlooking Greenland, it’s fantastical, fairy-tale lands. An ancient, mystical Norse country steeped in folklore and myths, inspiration for J. R. R. Tolkien’s fantasies. Bilski’s adventures come across as mythical: a “horse-lover’s dream” amidst a verdant landscape, “mesmerizing blue fjord,” volcanic sands. This is not only a unique place, but Icelandic horses are a unique breed “that’s remained isolated on this island for over a thousand years.” A breed that’s part “Norwegian Fjord horse, the Shetland Pony, the Irish Connemara, and the Fell and Dales Ponies of Yorkshire.” Interestingly, a bit of the Mongolian horse too, the subject of another memoir reviewed here. There’s something about horses and their relationship to mankind that’s enchanted, almost spiritual. And those who write memoirs about that profound connection infuse their passion into their prose. “You seek in horses what you can’t get in humans.” Wild Horses of the Summer Sun is escapist fiction crafted in literary prose. Remarkable how Bilski fell into something beyond her wildest dreams, recognized that, and made it into an annual tradition for more than a decade, except for a few years when family and personal health prevented her from doing so. The euphoria lasted all year, as best as life lets it, until another late June when she set off again. There’s the summer sun in the title but there’s also cold, windy, driving rains, weather that dramatically changes throughout the day. These life-enriching experiences confirm the cliché about being in the right place at the right time. Bilksi had gone to that Berkshires Icelandic horse farm, where she met Evie and Sylvie. Evie owned the farm with her husband Jack; Sylvie started riding there after retiring at 59. Already, you have a sense these women are hardy souls with big dreams. Helga was Sylvie’s friend in Iceland, who owned a magical horse farm where she bred and trained these beloved horses. The property included a heavenly guesthouse that was not a B&B, but she graciously and generously let Sylvie stay there, along with some of her friends, year after year for many years. That’s how Sylvie, leader and organizer, Evie, the author, along with another of Sylvie’s friends, Viv, and dear Helga, became a small cadre of women the author bonded with. Friendships that made it all possible, doable, incomparable. Each year, Sylvie invites other women and teenagers to join her; some returned, many not. Sometimes there were nine or more, other times down to the essential four. Some were problematic as they were dealing with significant issues, which is why compassionate Sylvie invited them in the first place. She wholeheartedly believes, as many do, “horses have a way of healing.” Besides the magical horses and Iceland, these female friendships at a later stage in life should be factored in. Women value friendships in general; in the author’s case, she describes herself as someone whose life revolved around her husband and three children, and someone who did not make friends naturally. So when she does, she’s grateful for them. And when she looks back, as she does in her memoir, she’s nostalgic for what they had. All along worried, how long can fantastic last? Icelanders are another draw: easy-going, serene, tolerant people. “After all,” the author says, “this is a country that hosted the Reagan-Gorbachev summit; this is a country where people can make peace and disarm nuclear escalations.” She finds even the language restorative, a “lullaby language with nursery-tale tonality.” You can think of a lot of adjectives to describe Icelandic horses, but the one that doesn’t fit is they’re easy to ride. Their pony-ish size and shaggy looks belie how highly energetic they are when released into their spirited landscape. Also challenging is these horses have five gaits, atypical. The author hadn’t ridden much since her younger “horse-crazy years” until she turned forty, when horses became intoxicating again. If this was a mid-life crisis, it’s the kind that creates a second life. One that took her husband time to adjust to, time to understand how much Icelandic horses in Iceland meant to her. The author was forty-six when these adventures took off. The oldest woman was Sylvie at sixty-six. She hardly knew Sylvie and her friend Eve, the rest were strangers. Helga’s “state-of-the-art” horse farm in Thingeyrar is at the center. It’s about five hours from the airport, but in 2004 the journey lasted frustratingly longer without a GPS app on a cellphone. Neither existed back then. What drives our fascination with something? Someplace? the author asks. To be addicted to this spectacular breed in a spectacular setting is one thing, but if you want to ride them you’ve got to master their “complicated” gaits. That’s why the author names her chapters – long but broken into short sections – after their five gaits, ranging in speed and number of beats. The fifth gait is the one to beat. Also called the Flying Pace, it’s the one we can picture vividly: when all the horse’s legs are suspended in air, “giving it the feeling of flying.” No wonder the author felt “wildly free,” wildly flying in a “wild, moody place,” wildly unconventional compared to her life back home. The author explains how important it is to get to know each horse’s personalities, moods, abilities. Equally important is how horses are affected by their rider’s competence, confidence, moods. Made more difficult as the years pass, as the women grow older and are not as willing to take risks. “Horses are a mirror. You can’t lie to a horse.” Sixteen pages of beautiful color photos the author took add to our appreciating, like the author does, “the aching beauty of the universe.” The memoir then is a very timely, important tribute to an Arctic Shangri-La crying out for the urgency of global actions to protect our planet in crisis. Lorraine (EnchantedProse.com)

  22. 4 out of 5

    Denise

    What a lovely book which I thoroughly enjoyed. The author vividly recounted her Icelandic adventures from 2004 through 2015. The dialogue was well written with no awkwardness. She invited the readers into her home, her life, her thoughts and introduced us to her friends. While the premise of the book is the author's love of Icelandic horses, she took the time to include some information on Iceland's culture, geography and history. Thank you Pegasus Books for randomly selecting me to receive a gi What a lovely book which I thoroughly enjoyed. The author vividly recounted her Icelandic adventures from 2004 through 2015. The dialogue was well written with no awkwardness. She invited the readers into her home, her life, her thoughts and introduced us to her friends. While the premise of the book is the author's love of Icelandic horses, she took the time to include some information on Iceland's culture, geography and history. Thank you Pegasus Books for randomly selecting me to receive a giveaway copy.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Stacey Lunsford

    I learned a lot about Icelandic horses, which was interesting. There is an Icelandic horse farm near where I live and I wondered about them every time I would pass by. Iceland imports no horses, keeping their unique breed consistent from when the island was first settled a millennia ago. Once a horse has been sold out of the country, it can never return. By doing this, Icelandic horses in Iceland remain free of the diseases that afflict horses elsewhere. Through a series of "friend of a friend o I learned a lot about Icelandic horses, which was interesting. There is an Icelandic horse farm near where I live and I wondered about them every time I would pass by. Iceland imports no horses, keeping their unique breed consistent from when the island was first settled a millennia ago. Once a horse has been sold out of the country, it can never return. By doing this, Icelandic horses in Iceland remain free of the diseases that afflict horses elsewhere. Through a series of "friend of a friend of a friend" relationships, the author was invited to visit Thingeyrar, a premier Icelandic horse farm in northern Iceland, every June for twelve years. The trip with her women friends was the highlight of her year and only ended when the horse breeder, Helga, decided to sell her farm and retire. The trips started before Iceland became a real tourist destination, when only about 20,000 tourists visited every year. Now, about 1.5 million visit annually. The descriptions of the individual horses, the quirks and characteristics of her friends, the food they enjoyed, the loveliness and historic significance of Thingeyrar are all described in detail. I give it three stars because it was a bit disjointed, a bit repetitive, and touched only lightly and frustratingly on deeper topics as the author tried to preserve the privacy of her friends and family.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Beth

    The book was recommended by a friend who has a neighbor who knows Tory . We live in CT. The references in the book do not identify where Tory lives in Ct. I borrowed the book through interlibrary loan CT. It arrived in Large Print. When a child, I read every book on horses, demanded that my Father buy me a horse (which he did not do) and during high school was lucky enough to have riding lessons twice a week. As to Iceland, I went there twice and loved it and enjoyed the views of horses running w The book was recommended by a friend who has a neighbor who knows Tory . We live in CT. The references in the book do not identify where Tory lives in Ct. I borrowed the book through interlibrary loan CT. It arrived in Large Print. When a child, I read every book on horses, demanded that my Father buy me a horse (which he did not do) and during high school was lucky enough to have riding lessons twice a week. As to Iceland, I went there twice and loved it and enjoyed the views of horses running wild and free as I also looked at the sea or glaciers or waterfalls! So yes, my friends recommendation was totally appropriate. I understand the need of the author to relive many moments of visiting Iceland yearly, learning about the horses and opening oneself to friendship with those who traveled along with her. The relationship with the owner, the trainer, and some of the other guests unfolds through conversation; some of the discomfort with other guests unfolds more through comments Tory makes to herself. I also have written a life memoir so now will examine it prior to editing to see if reading someone else's will give me insight about what my children or friends may be interested in reading.

  25. 4 out of 5

    wellreadtraveler

    Happy Nonfiction November! I was saving this memoir for this month so I can spotlight this unique story. Tory Bilski wrote this book about her amazing Iceland adventures. As I was reading her story I was thinking it must be both fun and fulfilling to write a book about what your passionate about. Tory and a group of women get together almost every year for 11 years to escape to northern Iceland. The opportunity to ride Icelandic horses and spend time on the farm building friendships and creating Happy Nonfiction November! I was saving this memoir for this month so I can spotlight this unique story. Tory Bilski wrote this book about her amazing Iceland adventures. As I was reading her story I was thinking it must be both fun and fulfilling to write a book about what your passionate about. Tory and a group of women get together almost every year for 11 years to escape to northern Iceland. The opportunity to ride Icelandic horses and spend time on the farm building friendships and creating lifelong memories. The descriptions of the beautiful horses, the landscape, the food, at times I could almost close my eyes and picture what it must have been like. To be able to have such a fun adventure planned every year and to get the opportunity to do what you love is inspiring. The story made me think of a close friend who loves to hike, and takes many trips exploring all different mountains. To get outside with the warm sun on your head and the hard soil underneath must bring such pleasure. If you love to travel, are outdoorsy, adventurous or even just love horses I think this would be a great book for you to read!

  26. 4 out of 5

    Zoann

    I want to do this! Riding wild-ish Icelandic horses over beautiful land under a never-setting sun--yes! Wouldn't like the cold. Some quotes I liked: "It is those moments of galloping and losing control while trying to keep my seat and doing everything to stay balanced, when I feel most utterly free." "Every trip has saved me in some way...Not that I think of myself as needing salvation. It's more that I think of myself as needing to get lost. It's the opposite of that youthful obsession of 'trying I want to do this! Riding wild-ish Icelandic horses over beautiful land under a never-setting sun--yes! Wouldn't like the cold. Some quotes I liked: "It is those moments of galloping and losing control while trying to keep my seat and doing everything to stay balanced, when I feel most utterly free." "Every trip has saved me in some way...Not that I think of myself as needing salvation. It's more that I think of myself as needing to get lost. It's the opposite of that youthful obsession of 'trying to find yourself'. I need to lose myself and more often." "...I know that life has a way of beating you up with one thing or another: ill health, sick kids, too many bills, broken hearts, bad jobs, or too much complacency. At some point, you lose whatever it is that makes your heart beat wild. It doesn't have to be a horse or a particular country, but we all need our Iceland thing." "...because once someone names your grief, you can no longer pretend it isn't real."

  27. 5 out of 5

    Ryan

    Tory Bilski's book weaves a story of rediscovering a childhood passion for horses in middle age and following it down a rabbit hole that leads to the world of Icelandic horses and to Iceland. She follows a trail that brings her new horse loving friends, new solo adventures that leave her "real life" behind, and the discovery of the magical landscape and people of Iceland. The writing is beautiful and there is philosophical musing throughout that pacts life lessons worth revisiting. Like any exce Tory Bilski's book weaves a story of rediscovering a childhood passion for horses in middle age and following it down a rabbit hole that leads to the world of Icelandic horses and to Iceland. She follows a trail that brings her new horse loving friends, new solo adventures that leave her "real life" behind, and the discovery of the magical landscape and people of Iceland. The writing is beautiful and there is philosophical musing throughout that pacts life lessons worth revisiting. Like any excellent travelogue it transports you to a place with vivid details and portraits of the people. This book reminds us all that finding and following a passion is a journey in itself. I highly recommend this book for its excellent writing and the velocity of the story which moves with the speed of a wild horse across the rugged and poetic landscape.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Venessa E-man

    So much more than a travel book! Wild Horses is a wonderful ode to Iceland - both the landscape and the people. The book is also an ode to friendship and what it means to be a woman navigating middle-age, family obligations, and female relationships. As someone who also loves the wild landscapes of Iceland, I was touched by how well Tory understands the nuances of the island. She captures to the peculiarities of the environment, the culture, the food, the horses and so much more - all with an at So much more than a travel book! Wild Horses is a wonderful ode to Iceland - both the landscape and the people. The book is also an ode to friendship and what it means to be a woman navigating middle-age, family obligations, and female relationships. As someone who also loves the wild landscapes of Iceland, I was touched by how well Tory understands the nuances of the island. She captures to the peculiarities of the environment, the culture, the food, the horses and so much more - all with an attention to detail that signals that she is not a simple tourist. In the last part of the memoir, Tory longs to know if she left her "imprint on the history of the land the way it ... left its imprint on (her)." I think, if nothing else, her book is proof enough that she has left her fingerprint on the psyche of the island.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Karen Ackley

    I enjoyed learning about Iceland and especially Icelandic horses. They are beautiful and wild and well captured in the photos shown at the end of the book (I especially like her blue-eyed boy, Snaefellsnes taken by A. Westphal). I liked the writing less, however. I found the author to often be catty and whiny. The women she traveled with were for the most part, pleasant and accommodating. Bilski has written an interesting travel memoir, but I think her story would be better suited to a magazine I enjoyed learning about Iceland and especially Icelandic horses. They are beautiful and wild and well captured in the photos shown at the end of the book (I especially like her blue-eyed boy, Snaefellsnes taken by A. Westphal). I liked the writing less, however. I found the author to often be catty and whiny. The women she traveled with were for the most part, pleasant and accommodating. Bilski has written an interesting travel memoir, but I think her story would be better suited to a magazine piece where she could concentrate on the horses, land and experience and less on social interactions. Since she never developed any of the other characters (would loved to have gotten to know Helga better) it was hard to know who was the "difficult" one. And then there were the locations...impossible for me to pronounce but then that's my problem. Finally, from New Haven's Daily Nutmeg, "Her story runs in the vein of other women’s travel narratives that tap into life’s deeper questions. Think Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love or Cheryl Strayed’s Wild. But those women were able to drop all their responsibilities and “take a year off” to find their bliss, Bilski points out. “That’s not what most women can do,” she says. She’s lucky enough to be able to travel once a year to a place that lifts her out of her life and into a new realm." I can relate to finding an annual travel destination that brings clarity to life; my many summer fishing trips to Canada would fit in this slot. Overall, a good read. Not great, but good.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Tory

    A memoir of the author's visits to Iceland from 2004 through 2015. More than descriptions of Iceland (a lot) and the Icelandic horses (even more), the heart of the story is the relationships between the women (ranging in age from their 40s to their 70s) the author meets up with in Iceland each year to lose themselves in the horses and the landscape. The relationships sometimes were complicated, sometimes catty, but ultimately genuine and heartfelt. Though I enjoyed this book immensely, I doubt t A memoir of the author's visits to Iceland from 2004 through 2015. More than descriptions of Iceland (a lot) and the Icelandic horses (even more), the heart of the story is the relationships between the women (ranging in age from their 40s to their 70s) the author meets up with in Iceland each year to lose themselves in the horses and the landscape. The relationships sometimes were complicated, sometimes catty, but ultimately genuine and heartfelt. Though I enjoyed this book immensely, I doubt that it would appeal to readers not interested in horses.

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