Hanna’s Daughters by Marianne Fredriksson


I can’t quite decide what I thought of this book, because the book didn’t seem to be quite able to decide what it was about.  It told the story of three generations of Swedish women, but sometimes the focus seemed to be the lives of women generally, sometimes the lives of these particular women, sometimes how the experiences of one generation are visited on the next, and sometimes the changes in Swedish society generally. 

It’s a shame that it probably wasn’t intended to be primarily a historical novel, because there were tantalising snatches of important themes and events in twentieth century Swedish history.  The separation of Sweden and Norway.  The move from the countryside to the cities.  The rivalry between Stockholm and Gothenburg.  The influx into Sweden of Danish and Norwegian Jewish refugees fleeing the Nazis.  The effect on neutral Sweden of the Second World War.  The progress of social democracy.  The changes in the status of women.  They were all there, but none of them were really developed.

Interestingly, there were also a lot of references to Charles XII.  I’ve been reading books about Peter The Great since I was a kid, whereas I didn’t come at the Great Northern War from a Swedish viewpoint until I was 18 or 19, so I have rather confused views about Charles XII.  (I did actually have “Poltava” as my computer password in my old job for a while about 12 years ago.)  I need to find some historical fiction which shows the Great Northern War, and the Deluge as well (although that I do come at from a Swedish viewpoint, even after visiting Czestochowa!), from the Swedish side, but I’m not doing very well finding any at the moment!

To get back to Hanna’s Daughters, it’s not bad, and it is actually a bestseller, but I don’t think that it fulfils the potential which it very probably had.


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