Friday, 28 February 2014

Women - a white spot in the history books!

An interesting article in DN about the lack of women in our history books. The article is written by several Swedish historians. I am sure that the trend is the same in other parts of the world as well. There have been a lot of strong, important women in history. But the world was always run by men and somehow women stayed in the background. Now they want to make all these women visible.

There are a lot of research that shows that women have been in powerful positions running countries, government, estates, farms, trading houses etc for several centuries. However, these new facts are not visible in the school books and the publishers do not want to pay for re-writing the history books. Therefore the school children in Sweden still only learns about "middle age men with power, from Sten Sture to Gustav Vasa, via Axel Oxenstierna and Carl XIV Johan to Per Albin Hansson and Olof Palme."

Through a re-write we could learn that there have been a lot of women ever since the Middle Ages who have been governing in many places in the world.

Dancing on the deadline (Dansa på deadline)

I read an interesting article in one of the major Swedish papers (DN) this morning. Within short there will be a new Swedish book called Dancing on the deadline (Dansa på deadline). It is written by the psychologist Alexander Rozental and the journalist Lina Wennersten. It concerns a problem which I think a lot of us have today - at least I do; that is, to delay things to the last minute. The book is trying to explain why we delay things although we know that we will feel bad when we finally have to deal with it. There seem to be some American literature on the subject, but not very much in Swedish. The symptom is called procrastination (from latin pro crastinus which means until tomorrow).

In the 1970s an American survey showed that 5% of the population suffered from procrastination. In a similar survey recently done the figures show that 15-20% suffers from delaying tasks. One important explanation is that the

Sunday, 23 February 2014

A visit to Stralsund

I took the car and drove to Stralsund in Germany to enjoy a fantastic city. Full of beautiful houses from Medieval times and later as well. You simply walk around in history and blogging seems a little bit out of tune! This was former a part of Sweden (we had occupied it in 1630 and received it 'legally' after the Thirty Year War and the peace in Westphalia in 1648). It was our great king Gustaf II Adolf who managed this. Yes, this is what we used to call them when they managed to add some more land to the original country. Luckily we are wiser now and come as peaceful tourists.

Here some pictures of the beautiful houses. Those with the imposing top part of the building is typical 'Giebelhäuser' (gabled houses) and there are many of them.

I will tell you more of the history when I return home but I just want to share some of my photos with your in the meantime.

Rathouse (Town Hall)

An this is the inside of the
Town Hall. It is open in all
four directions 
One of the two last toll gates. Originally
there were ten of them. To the right a restaurant
with the honourable opening year of 1281. Turns
out they have rebuilt the restaurant in the
1970s to look like it did in the old days! So
much for thinking you are eating
in a historical house.

Typical Giebelhäuser

Another type of house

A gabled house for modern use as well. A book shop!
Very conveniently.

Monday, 17 February 2014

The Innocents by Francesca Segal

This is a book I read for the Challenge '2014 Monthly Motif Challenge'. The February challenge is to read a Literary Award winner. I chose one from the Costa Award. I still remember the 2006 winner Stef Penney and 'The Tenderness of Wolves' as one of my favourite books. In 2012 Francesca Segal won the 'First Novel Award' with 'The Innocents'.

This is a worthy first novel winner. The book is very well written and it is one of these books that keeps you in the story even after you have finished it. It is about a Jewish community in the London area. We follow Adam who is around 30 and Rachel, his girlfriend since 16 years and soon to be wife. In comes Rachel's cousin Ellie from New York where she moved with her father as a teenager. Her life has been rather wild (photo model, porn star, mistress etc) in comparison to the family and friends surrounding Adam and Rachel.

The community in which Adam and Rachel spends their time is a life of religious holidays and family gatherings, helping each other, interfering in each others life; it seems to be a very traditional life where you already know as a young man and woman how your life will be. You just have to look at the older generation. Adam is quite happy to have this secure environment, especially since he lost his father when he was 8 years old and Rachel's father, who is also  his boss, has been like a father figure for him.

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

17th century live - Levande 1600-tal by Gunnar Wetterberg

Another book from my TBR shelves and not even in my list to read! Maybe like someone said; once you make a list to read it feels like a burden and you are hesitant to read. Could be true, but as long as my TBR shelves are less crowded I am happy. The reason I am reading this book is also because I try to read up on the history of 17th and 18th century, Europe mainly. These were really extraordinary exciting times. A time for globalisation and travels to other countries; and not only because of all the wars!

Gunnar Wetterberg is a Swedish historian. He held a lecture in Brussels some years ago and that is where I bought this book, together with two books on Axel Oxenstierna. He was for three Swedish kings and a queen what Richelieu was for Louis XIII and Cromwell for Henry VIII. He more or less shaped Sweden during the 42 years he "was in charge". Luckily for us he was a very wise man. He started his career by reading the archives of what kings had done during the last centuries. From this reading he could see what went wrong and which mistakes not to repeat. However, the other two books is about him so I will not linger here to what he achieved but will read the books about him first.

Vikings and what they told us

The Jelling stones in Denmark
Having started on my TBR shelves with the Viking tale of Röde Orm (Red Serpent) I would like to linger a little bit in the time of the Vikings. They had their own written signs cold runor which were based on sound rather than alphabetical letters. They were engraved on stones. Thousands of these stones have been found where the Vikings lived and normally they are a memory stone of kings, queens, family or just a tale from their expeditions. They are not necessarily placed by a grave. Most of the stones are found in Sweden and date to the 11th century. The oldest stone though was found in Norway and is from the 4th century and might indicate that the runor was used before the Viking time.
Harald's stone with the image of Christ

Most stones are found in Sweden around the valley where Stockholm is now situated and in the south of Sweden. However, two of the most famous are situated in Denmark. They are called the Jelling stones (named so because they were found in the Danish town of Jelling). The smaller and older stone was raised by Gorm the Old who was the last pagan king of Denmark and in memory of his queen Thyre. The larger one is from the first christened Harald Bluetooth (which play a part in Röde Orm). The stone has three sides; one with an animal image, one with an image of the crucified Jesus Christ and the third has an inscription which reads:

Friday, 7 February 2014

The Chosen Man by J.G. Harlond

This is a review for the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge 2014 hosted by Historical Tapestry   (

I have got a new favourite historical fiction writer. From somewhere I ran into her name and found a teaser of this book. It sounded interesting and furthermore on her web-site ( she referred to two non-fiction books as background material, the Tulipomania by Mike Dash and The Entity by Eric Frattini. I actually read Tulipomania before I read her fictional book. As you have seen from another post on this site it is a fascinating story.

Harlond has used this true story as a set up for her fictional story about Ludovico de Portovenere, Marcos and Alina. It is a dashing story set between 1635-37 in Italy, Spain, the Netherlands and England, of ships, pirates, merchants, tulip lovers, man and women trying to survive in a time of war and uncertainty. Spain has lost its hold on the Netherlands and are - together with the Vatican - trying to force it into bankruptcy by manipulating the tulip market. Their chosen man to perform this task is the merchant Ludovico (Ludo). But how can you do this through tulips? Well, that is why this story is so fascinating. For a couple of years the tulips became such a popular flower in the

Röde Orm (The Long Ships) part I and II by Frans G. Bengtsson

These two books have been on my bookshelf for a very long time, maybe even 30 years! I can't even remember when I bought them. They are considered a classic in Sweden and tells the story about the Vikings in the 10th century. The books were written in 1941 and 1945 respectively and although written in a somewhat old fashion Swedish the books are surprisingly fresh. They are one of the most popular books in Sweden or at least it used to be.

Two books read from my TBR shelf!
It tells the story about Röde Orm (Red Serpent, red because his hair is red) and his adventures in the West and in the East. The first book is about his first trip (he is actually more or less kidnapped on board the ship) westwards. The aim is to find riches along the Normandy coast. Since it has already been plundered they venture further on and are finally captured by Al-Mansur in Andalusia. They work for him in his security forces and have to fight several wars before they manage to escape back home. The trip home takes them via England and Ireland before they end up in Denmark at the court of the great Viking king Harald Blåtand (Harald Bluetooth). Spending some time at the court Orm falls in love with one of the kings daughters, Ylva, and proposes. However, having no home, even if he has some riches, the king says he has to prove himself before he can earn his daughter. Furthermore, he has to be christened before he can marry her. These are the times when the first missionaries came up north to try to christen the heathens.

Orm sets out again to fight the English and to get their riches. After various adventures he comes to the king's court in England where Ylva is staying with her sister. Having won the fights the English king has to pay the Vikings and Orm marries Ylva, heads back to south of Sweden (Denmark in those days) to settle down.

The second book tells about the establishing of his home, his christening, his friendship with the priest Willibert who comes from the king's court to stay with him and try to christen as many as he can. He even builds a church on Orm's premises. Other friends from his Spanish days turns up, the neighbouring clans tries to live in peace and all is well. Then his long lost brother Are returns from his adventures in Miklagård (Constantinopel, present day Istanbul). He is blind, without tongue and one hand but manages nevertheless with the help of 'runor' (the Viking letters) to tell his story and how he managed to get his hands (before he lost one) on a golden treasure which he buried in the Dnepr river.

This is too good a temptation for the Vikings so Orm buys a ship, gathers a crew and sets of to capture the gold. Along the way they run into various fights, foreign tribes, meeting old friends and finally manage to get the gold and return home.

It is in its own way a fascinating book, telling in an understandable way the life of the Vikings and the times. You see how they were living, their homes, the violent times, the problem between the heathens and the christians etc. It is told in a charming way and the books were a much easier read than I expected. Then of course they live in the area in the south of Sweden where I grow up and some of the names are still the same. Makes it a little bit extra interesting.

And another reward: these are two books from my TBR shelves so I am on my way!

Sunday, 2 February 2014

2014 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

The Historical Tapestry web-site is hosting their yearly 'Historcial Fiction Reading Challenge' and I am joining this year. The simple rule is that during the following 12 months you can choose one of the different reading levels:
20th century reader - 2 books
Victorian reader - 5 books
Renaissance Reader - 10 books
Medieval - 15 books
Ancient History - 25 books
Prehistoric - 50+ books

I will go for the Renaissance Reader - 10 books. 

More info under page 'Challenges' and look out for this page for future reviews.