The Settlers by Vilhelm Moberg

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This is the third in Vilhelm Moberg’s “The Emigrants” series, and shows the progress being made by both the Swedish emigrants who are the main characters and the area of Minnesota in which they’ve settled. More and more people move to the area, a Swedish church is built, a school is opened, a local newspaper is started, the settlers produce more and more crops on their land and build a bigger house, the main male character plays an important role in the community, and Minnesota is admitted to the Union as the 32nd state.

However, it isn’t really a very positive book. Showing the characters being affected by poor weather and a plague of grasshoppers is of course to be expected in a story with this sort of setting, but it goes beyond that. It actually follows all the old stereotypes of the dark, dismal Scandinavian soul. Two of the emigrants head for California to try to find gold. One dies en route, the other dies soon after returning to Minnesota, both only in their early twenties. The main female character descends into a sort of religious melancholy. It’s all rather gloomy … and it ends at Christmas 1860, with the settlers as yet unaware that South Carolina has seceded five days earlier. It’ll be interesting to see how things pan out in the fourth and final book of the series.

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