|Elisabeth's Daughter / Marianne Fredriksson|
trans. from the Swedish by Anna Paterson
London: Orion, c2002.
Katarina is a modern young woman; the last thing she wants is to be tied down. But when she begins an affair with an attractive (and married) American, she finds herself unexpectedly pregnant, and more unexpectedly, wishing to keep the baby. Her boyfriend, however, does not agree, and violently attacks her, accusing her of trying to trap him, then disappears back to America.
This story explores the idea that violence and abuse are intergenerational, that what a mother experiences, a daughter can too. Or that abusive patterns are passed down in families, to both the perpetrator and victim.
It only partially works.
Frederiksson is a writer whose own views come through very strongly in her writing; the characters are not allowed to open up into strange and complex people, rather they represent what she is trying to say. And here it felt to me like she knew what the conclusion should be so the story was held to those lines.
One of the reasons this didn't really work for me was that, other than the violence Katarina suffers in the opening, there isn't any drama -- she has a supportive family, lots of money, time to recover and work through things with her mother -- they forgive the violent boyfriend easily, her baby isn't harmed, and Katarina's relationship with her mother is resolved neatly. Her brother is also a pastor, so there is lots of scope for Fredriksson's Christian belief to shine through, on forgiveness, on the meaning of life, etc. It's a quiet and insulated story despite the theme.
I didn't agree with some of Fredriksson's statements or conclusions, but more than that, felt that there wasn't any room for a differing perspective in this story. It just rolled along in its track until the vaguely satisfying end. There were a few interesting elements here, and the Swedish setting is strong. But overall this story felt flat to me.