Thursday, May 22, 2008

Book Review: Astrid and Veronika

This book by Linda Olsson has been on my reading list for so long that I had no memory of what it might be about when I at last got to it. I am so glad I finally read this gem. Olsson (her website is here) is a lyrical writer; she takes time about this craft of writing, creating phrases that fit together like poetry. Neighbors Astrid and Veronika are both lonely, heartbroken women. Astrid, nearing 80, has lived a solitary, sad life; Veronika, in her early 30s, has come to this tiny town to recover from a terrible loss. Their stories run a parallel course: both women are without mothers and without daughters, but ultimately find this relationship in each other.

This is a quiet, reflective novel. Olsson has wonderful insights into the concepts of time, memory and perception, and I found myself mulling over many of her statements. Like this:
"Children have to build their world from such incomplete information. Other people make decisions for them, and only fragments of the rationale are ever conveyed. As children we inhabit a world built of incoherent snippets. The process of embellishing and filling the holes is an unconscious one, I think. And perhaps it continues all our lives."

And this:
"'Time. I don't understand it,' Veronika said. 'I think I have never grasped the essence of time. Memories seem to surface in no particular order, with no time attached. Yesterday can seem as distant as last year. … Some of my clearest memories are of the briefest moments,' Veronika continued. 'I have years of life that have left no traces, and minutes that are so ingrained in my mind that I relive them every day.'"

I love to come across an insight into something I've often pondered: the fragments of childhood memories, what we choose to remember and how much we've lost in the journey. Olsson does this well.

I loved this novel. Astrid and Veronika are women of much depth, and their stories are heartwrenching but mostly satisfying. Mostly because a few of the key points of the stories were incomplete, or perhaps I was too dense to grasp what exactly happened--or why--in a couple of instances. But the writing is lovely and the characters wonderful.

1 comment:

Eileen said...

I have this book checked out from the library right now. I've read so many good reviews so I'm looking forward to reading it!