American / Book Reviews / nonfiction / The Latest

“Dálvi”: A Review of Laura Galloway’s memoir of living in the arctic tundra

Dálvi: Six Years in the Arctic Tundra by Laura Galloway. The book is sitting between two house plants on a small coffee table.

It has been a while since I wrote any reviews or posted articles here. It has been a rough couple of months, I am not going to lie. I haven’t been reading as much as I normally would, which makes running a book blog complicated, to say the least. If you want to follow my more day-to-day life, remember you can always follow me on Instagram. It is where I post the most regularly.

With that said, I also wanted to say that this has been a year of ups and downs for a small content creator like myself. Algorithms are constantly changing and it feels like Instagram is just TikTok with a moustache with all the reels. And if you don’t make reels, you get buried. Too bad if you don’t want to make or consume content that consists of 10-second videos. But honestly, I could go on and on about my frustrations with the online world… but today, I want to get back to what I love. Talking about books.

It felt strange to be reading about the arctic tundra in the Australian summer. A completely different world, something that seems inconceivable in 35 degrees celsius plus temperatures. Although, I thoroughly enjoyed Laura Galloway’s memoir.

Galloway spent six years in the Northern Sámi lands of Kautokeino, which is in Northern Norway. I lived in Switzerland for six years, and I also know many people who have lived in places for six years. I am starting to wonder if this number means something in terms of migrating and whether six years marks a tipping point at which you either commit to your new world or move on? Let me know if you have travelled and lived abroad, what year you came back if you did at all.

Galloway felt like an outsider for a lot of her time in Kautokeino. And it can be extremely difficult to navigate a new culture, new language, new climate, and new ways of being. What seems so natural to Galloway, would often be some cultural faux pas in Sámi culture. It can feel like you a suddenly playing a new game, but no one ever really explains the rules to you. It was something I could sympathise with Galloway whilst reading the book.

I think for Galloway, and anyone who travels and throws themselves into a new culture, there is an ultimate test of your own identity. The arctic tundra forced Galloway to look at her life, her family, her career, and also her subjectivity in ways that staying in her own native culture couldn’t do. She talks about feeling lonely and trying to make friends. Trying to navigate love with a Sámi reindeer herder and how that ultimately fell apart. Although, living in this harsh climate also challenged and rewarded Galloway in many ways.

Galloway also writes about Sámi culture and her own forays in DNA testing and finding out about her ancestry. Something that Galloway brings up in the book is that ancestry isn’t the same as being in and of a culture or ethnic group. Knowing ancestral history can give us a sense of pride, a feeling of heritage – of where we came from, but ultimately not exactly who we are in the present moment. (It is a difficult topic though, and I want to say that not all of this applies to every situation, especially when it comes to things like the stolen generations in Australia, where being raised outside of culture was an external force).

The hidden gem of Galloway’s book, for me, was her discussions about her family. I felt like this was extremely raw and powerful. And I could honestly relate to a lot of her feelings about her family and the kind of family dynamic she grew up in. I thought it was really brave of her to share that, and I can definitely appreciate not feeling so alone after reading it.

Galloway’s memoir has made me think – do I write about my own time in Switzerland? I mean, maybe… one day? But I also just loved having a book that took me away to a different world when no one is really travelling at the moment – especially in Australia.

Tell me what travel memoirs you are reading at the moment. I would love to read some more books so I can feel like I am not just stuck at home every day. As always, share the reading love.

2 thoughts on ““Dálvi”: A Review of Laura Galloway’s memoir of living in the arctic tundra