Read Around the World: Sweden
How obtained: second hand store ($3.25)
This book was a welcome break from the somewhat alternative writing styles many of my recent choices have had. With simple, easy to follow prose this book delves into the story behind 3 generations of women in Sweden.
The grandmother, Hanna, was a poor rural woman who expected toil and injustice, and thus took everything as it came and didn’t get down about the bad things that came her way. She lived in a time of strict social rules, intense poverty, and had minimal education. The course of her life took her from country to city, and from the late 19th century though the world wars. The mother, Johanna, grew up in during the wars and benefited from modernisation and increased women’s rights. Where this book starts, Johanna is in hospital with sever dementia. Her daughter Anna is struggling to deal with visiting her and how to keep up a one sided conversation and the realisation that she left all her questions about her mothers life too late. At the same time, her father has been slowly deteriorating also, and is now the typical grumpy old man, who will complain you never visit, even when you came yesterday and he was irritable the whole time. The daughter’s story is in some ways our story- she is the one reflecting on the past of the others, and on her own relationship.
In seeing into these women’s lives, we get a sense of the vast differences in what it was like to grow up in these different times. But at the same time, there are commonalities. All the women struggled with the male-female dynamic in marriage and other relationships. In each marriage there are things the women put up with, and times they have to decide what their line in the sand is.
I loved this book for it’s interesting description of life in rural Sweden at the end of the 19th Century, and changes thereafter, for the warm, accepting depiction of the characters, and for the insightfulness about aging and family dynamics.