Friday, February 27, 2009
Review: Hanna's Daughters by Marianne Fredriksson
book 3 of 3 for the Well Seasoned Reader Challenge
genre: fiction, translated
I'm still reeling from the depth of this book. Hanna's Daughters is a story of three generations of Swedish women, trying their hardest to find out who they are in a world that never seems to fit them completely. Hanna, Johanna and Anna - grandmother, mother and daughter, their lives winding through Swedish history: war and famine, prosperity and vague pleasures, from a mountain cabin on a lake in the mid 1800s to the streets of modern Göteborg.
The narrative is both personal and real, each women's experiences woven through everyone else's and we see each generation from the other's point of view. I loved this book for its history and the appreciation I've found for Sweden and its past, the class struggles and the people's desire to truly be a land of human rights. I loved the book for its words - an excellent translation that even gives you a sense of the rural dialect of the grandmother's family. I loved the book for the reality of these women whose relationships are so familiar - heartbreaking and poignant. I didn't love that most of the men seemed either weak or dominating, but I also feel like I understand the characters enough to know why there were together - and that the men did have much to offer these strong and struggling women.
At times the chronology and unfamiliar names and geography got confusing, but I eventually felt I belong in this land of water and life. I wished, sometimes, that their stories had been happier ones, but I think part of my love of this book is that they had to find a way to work it out, despite their choices and circumstances. And because their was so much difficulty, their epiphanies and those moments when things finally seemed clear became that much sweeter.