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Simon's family
Marianne Fredriksson
Adult Fiction FREDRIKSS

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From Publishers' Weekly:

Swedish novelist Fredriksson follows her international bestseller, Hanna's Daughters, with a chronicle, set before and during WWII, of two families and the schoolboy friendship that links them. When 11-year-old Simon Larsson visits the home of his Jewish classmate Isak Lentov, he discovers how the wealthy live. When Isak visits Simon, he finds nurturing love in the care of Simon's mother, Karin; soon he moves in with the Larssons. As the boys grow up together, Simon emulates the intellectual pursuits of Isak's father, Ruben, while Isak strives to gain the craftsmanship and manual strength of Simon's father, Erik. At first, the evil in Germany seems far away; then as Erik goes off to the army, news of atrocities abroad reach home, and Norwegian ships that cannot return to their Nazi-occupied land seek harbor in the boys' seaside town. Each member of the blended family confronts painful memories that surface in their fears and dreams. Karin and Erik remember bitter manipulative parents. Isak recalls his family's years in Berlin, when he suffered physical abuse, first from his authoritarian grandfather, and then from the new Nazi state; Ruben worries about his mad wife, now confined to an asylum. Roaming the coast in dissatisfied reveries, Simon imagines alternate origins for himself, even after his parents tell him the secret truth about his birth. Fredriksson depicts the psychological aftermath of cruelty through the ebb and flow of interior monologues, adhering to time-honored parallels between the characters' harsh longings and the stark beauty of the remote Swedish seascape. The second half of the lengthy tale follows the boys and their families to adulthood: Simon is involved in an army scandal, Karin falls ill and Isak becomes a father. Fredriksson's prose has, at its best, the clarity of a child's-eye view. At worst, it's distractingly awkward and overliteral: the lathe-worker who trains Isak "could feel a quiet happiness when he occasionally had a boy with intelligence in his hands as well as the passion for being exact." Already a bestseller in Germany, the novel contrasts the human capacity for suffering with a heartfelt optimism: these sentiments, along with the Swedish setting, enhance the story's appeal. (Aug.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

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