Not Everyone in Sweden Gets Killed

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Scandinavian crime fiction has become quite popular in America in recent years and if this were our only depiction of Sweden, it would be easy to believe your life is in danger every minute you spend in metropolitan areas like Stieg Larsson’s Stockholm, cities like Henning Mankell’s Ystad, small towns like Camilla Läckberg’s Fjällbacka, and even tiny island villages like Johan Theorin’s Stenvik.

Of course, that picture would be as inaccurate as imagining that life in the United States consists exclusively of the type of murder and mayhem depicted in the works of James Patterson or Lee Child. For a wider literary tour of Sweden, filled with people whose experiences may be more similar to your own, I suggest these classic and contemporary books filled with the quiet moments, realistic relationships, and emotional turmoil of everyday life.

Astrid & Veronika

Veronika moves from New Zealand to a small Swedish village following the death of her fiancé, hoping to regain her equilibrium and finish her novel. Her new neighbor is a recluse named Astrid, who at first silently observes Veronika’s arrival, but slowly becomes a comforting presence in Veronika’s life, sharing comfort in the form of home-prepared meals, companionship, and shared stories of love and loss.

The Invoice

This highly entertaining novel asks what you would pay for a cherished memory or a beautiful summer day. Our hero lives a simple life, occupying his time with a part time job at the video store and the company of a few friends. Then his life falls into madness when he suddenly receives an enormous invoice from a random bureaucratic agency and proceeds to call the hotline day and night to try to find out how he could possibly owe so much. How will our carefree idealist, who is content with so little and has no chance of paying it back, find a way out of this mess?

Popular Music from Vittula

In the 1960s, pop records finally begin to find their way into the eager hands of teens in the far north of Sweden. Matti dreams of being a rock star, but in the tiny ice-bound village of Pajala, within the confines of the Arctic Circle, young men of his age are expected to pursue masculine activities like hunting elk, drinking moonshine, and fighting on dancefloors.

The Summer Book

Sophia is six and spending the summer on a tiny island with her elderly grandmother. Sophia is impetuous and volatile, while her grandmother is unsentimental, wise, and – well – cranky. As the two trek through forests, amble over coasts, build boats, and study bugs, they learn to adjust to each other’s whims and worries, and a fierce yet understated love develops between them.

 

Willful Disregard

Ester has principles. She knows what she believes and acts accordingly. She is a sensible person in an equally sensible relationship, until the day she gives a lecture on renowned artist Hugo Rask. In the audience, Hugo is delighted with Ester’s interest in him. When they meet afterward, Ester is enthralled with the artist. Leaving her boyfriend, Ester’s rational and analytical mind is tested by her devotion to a man who has unwittingly become the object of her fascination.