Tuesday, November 17, 2015

O.o.O.C.: "Astrid & Veronika" by Linda Olsson

Out of Orbit Critiques are the reviews on books that stray outside my usual genres. Astrid & Veronika is a work of contemporary fiction.

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.

As much as I did empathize with the characters, there was something rather contrived about them. Astrid was more my speed than Veronika, and yet she still irked me in that she was rather static. Veronika was less dysfunctional, but I really didn't understand her motives throughout the book. Why a small village in Sweden? Sure, Sweden is her native country, but of all the places in the world? As a world traveller, I would suspect her of wanting a change of pace to write her novel in, not something so familiar. I found a few of Astrid's scenes problematic as well, but she still felt more realistic to me than Veronika.

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


  1. I do not believe I have read this one, although it sounds very familiar to me. I am racking my brain trying to remember. It is too bad the cultural aspect wasn't stronger in the novel and the book seemed unfocused. This doesn't sound like a book I will rush out to read, but maybe someday if it comes my way.

    1. Yeah, it depends on your main genres. For me, as a reader of mostly fantasy, historical, sci-fi, or biography, this was a bit outside my comfort zone to start with, and then throw in a pensive plot and I was pretty much uninvolved as a reader. But I still try to keep a clean palate for new genres, as once upon a time, historical and sci-fi were no-gos for me as well.
      Thanks for stopping by and commenting, Wendy!
      ~Litha Nelle


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