Monday, September 20, 2010

Thoughts on a book: Let Me Sing You Gentle Songs

I love holidays so that I can read and read and finish a book in my own time instead of snatching moments here and there and perhaps losing something of the thread.

This small book is a product of the author's life in both New Zealand and Sweden, and the images of each seem to ring true despite my never having been to either place.  The story is of two women who bring their memories and their wounds into their life together and forge something new and precious.  The book is set in present day Sweden and begins with Veronika arriving in a remote village to rent a house and perhaps to write the book she has been planning in her mind.  Veronika's neighbour is said to be a witch but is only a reclusive older woman living in the house her grandfather built.  Her name is Astrid.  The women share their stories in alternate chapters, going back further and further into the past, and deeper into the reasons for their individual sadness and chosen place of solitude.

A lovely touch throughout the book are the snatches of poetry which head each chapter - first in Swedish, followed by their translation by the author.  Each phrase is mirrored and expanded by the chapter which follows and had the effect of making me stop to reflect before starting on the next small journey that the pages would chart.

The book is essentially about love, loss, compasssion, accommodation and finally renewal.  The friendship between the women, so different in age and experience, is developed and nurtured with understanding and sensitivity.    Crisp and clear pictures are painted through the memories and the seasons.  While there is much sadness in the stories of the past it is not a sad book, rather a celebration of the small steps towards living with the experiences of ones life and reliving memories to keep the good and let the bad filter away.

"Come, sit by me, and I shall tell you all my sorrows; we shall talk to each other about secrets."

Read it.

"Let me sing you gentle songs" by Linda Olsson.  Penguin 2005 (255p)

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