Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Swedish and Symbolic

Astrid and Veronika
by Linda Olsson

Astrid is a reclusive older woman, living alone and known by the people nearby as the village witch, and Veronika is in her thirties and rents a house next to Astrid's in a rural area of Sweden. Each woman is struggling with the losses, disappointments, and fears of her past but their friendship, hesitant at first and later open and revealing, brings them into a new awareness of themselves and the life yet ahead of them. Astrid left the village only once as a child while Veronika travelled the world as the daughter of a diplomat, but both grew up without their mothers and that becomes a central theme in the book, as they offer comfort to one another as a mother would. Olsson uses strong elements like water and the seasons to enhance the reader's understanding of the depth of the women's emotions and experiences.

I finished Astrid and Veronika a week or more ago, but since it was a book club selection, I decided to wait to write about it until we had met and discussed it. Reactions to the book were mixed, which seems to make for better discussion.  Nearly everyone felt that we wanted more answers and explanations. We all wanted to know more about some of the things Astrid revealed to Veronika, and were left with questions about Veronika's relationships. I thought it was beautifully written, with incredible detail in the description of setting and the characters behaviors, but I was left feeling like I wanted all the loose ends tied up. It had poignant, revealing moments and a lyrical quality to it, but my overall opinion was that it was a bit unsettling and unfinished.

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