I wasn't sure what to expect when I picked this up, other than a book about female friendship set in Sweden. As I prefer books with lots of female characters, I looked forward to one about an unconventional friendship between two women of somewhat similar experiences with an age gap between them. Astrid has lived in the small Swedish village all her life, rarely venturing outside it, while Veronika was a world traveller, even as a young woman.
The Plot (As Seen on Goodreads):
'With extraordinary emotional power, Linda Olsson's stunningly well-crafted debut novel recounts the unusual and unexpected friendship that develops between two women. Veronika, a young writer from New Zealand, rents a house in a small Swedish village as she tries to come to terms with a recent tragedy while also finishing a novel. Her arrival is silently observed by Astrid, an older, reclusive neighbor who slowly becomes a presence in Veronika's life, offering comfort in the form of companionship and lovingly prepared home-cooked meals. Set against a haunting Swedish landscape, Astrid & Veronika is a lyrical and meditative novel of love and loss, and a story that will remain with readers long after the characters' secrets are revealed.'
My only other Swedish read prior to this one having been The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, I also had no idea what to expect on that front. Unfortunately with this read, the focus is less on the setting than on the friendship, so I didn't feel I got to experience anything distinctly 'Swedish' in culture, although the descriptions of the surrounding wilderness were lovely. Since this was set in a small village, I had wanted to see more of the village lifestyle, but since Astrid and Veronika were so honed in on each other from the very start, I suppose that would be a slightly unrealistic expectation.
Astrid & Veronika is more unfocused than I would like, but an interesting book about two women's life stories. Although I found the main plot dealing with Astrid and Veronika's friendship to be lacking, their flashbacks kept me engaged, helping me finish this before the Travel the World in Books readathon ended. If you enjoy contemporary fiction about friendships, you may find this book of more interest than I did, since I'm more interested in historical narratives.
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars for a good, if a little too meandering, read.
Content: Ages 18+ for violence and abuse.
Page Count: 247 pages in my paperback edition