Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Book review: Transatlantic connection

I am a member of the BookMooch booktrading network (a great invention!), and sometimes I search for books with the keyword Sweden. While doing that, this book suddenly popped up as available: Fly Fishing the River of Second Chances: Life, Love, and a River in Sweden by Jennifer Olsson. The book is about an American fisherwoman from Montana (think Yellowstone National Park), who falls in love with another fly fishing expert from Gimdalen, Jämtland, Sweden. She moves over to Sweden for a summer with her young son, and learns to love some of Sweden's specialties (tunnbröd for example) and not to like some others (surströmming). She goes moose hunting, does the midsummer and Saturday dances, lives with mosquitoes and an outhouse (utedass) and no shower for a summer, and ponders the large amount (20%) of unmarried men in her little village. I think the book is very truthful when it comes to Swedish rural life, but if you read this and then think that Stockholm is like this you will be disappointed.

It is a true memoir and nicely written, but sometimes it reads more like a collection of descriptions of strange or funny Swedish customs, than a personal memoir. I think it is really brave to write a book like this, since it can become so personal. I liked it. It won't be on my 'bring-to-a-deserted-island-list', but then I think very few books will.

Only one thing nagged me repeatedly. If you are an American married to a Swede, with many Swedish friends as well, don't you let them read the book first to catch your misspelled Swedish words? It is Systembolaget, not 'System Bolaget'. It is murklor, not 'morklor'. Or maybe these are Jämtska spelling rules? Gimdalen is close to Bräcke in central Sweden, far north in the forested hills, and people there speak differently. We know, we have relatives and DNA in us from Jämtland.

Here is a little excerpt:
"But I soon learned that true Swedish forest people mustn't look bothered by biting insects, especially mosquitoes. No squealing, swearing, or sudden jerky movements to indicate something has bitten or is about to bite. No preapplication of repellent in the house, car, or parking area. Mosquitoes must be sighted and proved to be an actual nuisance Even then, repellent is applied inconspicuously, if at all. You must never use hats veiled with netting, beds draped with netting, special sonic devices, vitamin preparations, or lemon-scented candles to drive mosquitoes away. Locals view dependence on any of these items as indicating weakness of character. Only foreigners, or people from Stockholm, use any of the above. "

The author and her husband nows have a fly-fishing guide company (Scandiwest). If you like fishing, I bet they are great guides, but one day with private lessons costs 2500 SEK (about $400). A little bit too much for my budget.


Olle said...

It is not "morklor" in Jemtish. I doubt very much they had a special word for that mushroom at all in the dialect. They never ate mushrooms until modern times. And certainly not poisonous ones that the cattle refused. It was "svamp" (mushroom).

As to fly-fishing come and see the shop we have got here in Yorkshire! It is big as a big supermarket and has got gear beyond all belief. And it is not cheap. So if there is such a demand here in England where there are not a single serious stream to be found, I think there is a market for Scandiwest too.

LS said...

Hi Olle,

I think she just mispelled it... morklor I mean. Since she was there in modern times, she might just have written it as it sounds, not as it is spelled.

Aha, so fly-fishing is like golfing. Very expensive if you want it to be? I wonder if many Brits come to Jämtland to fish.. Let me know if you want to read this book, I am happy to lend it out.