Monday, October 15, 2007

Let me sing you gentle songs/Astrid and Veronika by Linda Olsson

This book is written by a Swedish woman, Linda Olsson, who's been living abroad since 1986; Kenya, England and for the most part New Zealand. The novel is originally written in English and I read the Swedish translation (whick is called Nu vill jag sjunga dig milda sånger). It's original title is Let me sing you gentle songs, but some countries have chosen to call it Astrid and Veronika.

It's a book about a friendship between a 31-year-old woman and an elderly loner. The end up living as neighbours for a short period of time and during this time, they both start to live again. The younger woman has returned to Sweden after a tragedy in New Zealand and is trying to write a novel as she tries to come to grips with her life. The older woman has only once left her birth village, had a mean father and lived in a loveless marriage, and she's chosen to withdraw from the world as much as possible. The women tell each other their stories and in doing so, they both accept their past and get to know each other.

The novel tells a sad and beautiful story. Or rather, two stories. The landscape is described very detailed and in words that are big and small at the same time. The timeline is interrupted by hindsights from different decades. Quite a lot of poetry is intertwined in the story.

I liked this novel. I liked the two main characters. I liked the mood of the book. I liked how some things were only hinted about and how I had to read between the lines sometimes to understand what was happening. I liked how the timeline was interrupted, and I never felt confused as to where I was in time or space. But... (There's usually a but, isn't there?) At times I thought the dialouge had a bit too much cliché in it. And the characters felt rather flat, or one-dimensional. Family members are in general very vaguely described. I don't think I was ever really surprised by anything that happened or was said. Most of it was very predictable. I had the ending figured out halfway through the book.

The book made me cry though. I think I'd rate it a 3 out of 5...

Have you read it? What did you think?


Geek Knitter said...

That sounds like an interesting book. I'll see if my public library has it, and if they do I'll let you know what I think.

Peastraw said...

They are playing the audio version of this on our radio here in New Zealand. She has some very beautiful turns of phrase and gently brings out the emotions in the moment. I'm really enjoying this so far. Recommend it.