Thursday, 17 July 2014

Simon och ekarna (Simon and the Oaks) by Marianne Fredriksson

Simon is speaking with the oaks. The Oaks are speaking with him. Secrets coming down from forgotten lands, difficult for him to understand. He can't grasp the words they are saying. Until one day when he listens to a symphony of Berlioz. Then it all becomes clear. He sees what the music is telling. It is the story from the Oaks. He sees the old priest, the ancient buildings, the tragedies and the love coming down to him from centuries back.

Like all - or many, I have not read them all - books by Marianne Fredriksson, not everything is what it seems to be. She manages to vow a strange net of long forgotten worlds, and worlds that only one person sees. It is so skilfully mixed into our real world that it all becomes magic, and ... true and realistic!

This is a book that tells the story of two jewish boys, growing up in Sweden, just before the start of World War II. They are about 14-15 years old at this time. One came to live with his well off father who left Germany before the war and now has started a new life in Sweden; the other one is adopted - although he does not know it, and only later finds out that he is jewish as well - and lives with his poor, working class parents. The boys, outcasts in school find each other. Their two families becomes like a big family thanks to the friendship between the two boys Simon and Isak. As often can be, the sons disappoint their fathers, but in this case it is all helped because Simon takes to Isak's father and Isak to Simon's father.  The families merges into one. We follow them during the war and up to the 1950s. Their studies, military service, finding a job, finding a girl, parents seeing the boys growing up.

The book is so much more than the outline of the story above. Both boys are hunted by inner demons, although different, they have the same anxieties that tears them to pieces or tears them down. It is also about fighting these demons and they have to fight them in different ways. The centre of the book is Simon's mother Karin who holds everything together with her kind and loving way.

It is an absolutely lovely book and it was difficult to put it down. Even after I have finished, it has stayed with me. The stories of both boys engage. I think that maybe times are not so different today and this story could have taken place any time, any place.

The book was made into a film in 2011. Yet to see this one.

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