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A Treacherous Paradise [Kindle Edition]

Henning Mankell , Laurie Thompson
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (171 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $15.95
Kindle Price: $11.99
You Save: $3.96 (25%)
Sold by: Random House LLC

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Historical Fiction
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Book Description

From the internationally acclaimed author of the Kurt Wallander crime novels, a powerful stand-alone novel set in early-twentieth-century Sweden and Mozambique, whose vividly drawn female protagonist is awoken from her naïveté by her exposure to racism and by her own unexpected inner strengths.

Cold and poverty define Hanna Renström’s childhood in remote northern Sweden, and in 1904, at nineteen, she boards a ship for Australia in hope of a better life.  But none of her hopes—or fears—prepares her for the life she will lead. After two brief marriages both leave her widowed, she finds herself the owner of a bordello in Portuguese East Africa, a world where colonialism and white colonists rule, where she is isolated within white society by her profession and her gender, and, among the bordello’s black prostitutes, by her color. As Hanna’s story unfurls over the next several years in this “treacherous paradise,” she wrestles with a devastating loneliness and with the racism she’s meant to unthinkingly adopt. And as her life becomes increasingly intertwined with the prostitutes’, she moves inexorably toward the moment when she will make a decision that defies all the expectations society has of her and, more important, those she has of herself.

Gripping in its drama, evocative and searing in its portrait of colonial Africa, A Treacherous Paradise is, at its heart, a deeply moving story of a woman who manages to wrench wisdom, empathy, and grace from the most unforgiving circumstances.

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* In 1904, Hanna Lundmark, a young widow from poverty-stricken northern Sweden, arrives in Lourenço Marques, a coastal town in Portuguese East Africa. Following a series of unexpected events, she becomes the owner of a prosperous brothel of black prostitutes. Her new environment proves difficult to navigate, particularly its blatant racism. Nobody knows what to make of a rich white businesswoman, either. Black-white relations, evoked with subtle skill and mordant humor, are marked by mutual incomprehension and fear, and Hanna’s attempts at friendliness and generosity toward her employees are met with unnatural silences. When she obeys her conscience and makes a gutsy decision against bigotry, the plot takes turns at once surprising and not. Mankell, Scandinavian crime fiction’s brightest star, structures his latest around a true story from turn-of-the-century Mozambique. Considerable suspense derives from the tense atmosphere and the fact that neither Hanna nor the reader knows quite what will happen next. The tragic effects of colonialism in this divided land emerge slowly via a succession of shocking reveals. This powerful work boasts a courageous, well-drawn heroine and makes its points without stridency or didacticism. Since it’s written by Mankell, an author of such high stature, it should get the large audience it deserves. --Sarah Johnson


"A sensuous, beguiling tapestry" -- William Boyd New York Times "Timelessly resonant" Independent "Mankell uses his deep knowledge of Mozambique's history and politics to great advantage in this unusual and riveting story" Daily Mail "Mankell is the master. Let's be honest: I hate thrillers. But I love Mankell" -- Viv Groskop Red Magazine "Profound and compelling... Paints a convincing and poignant picture" Good Book Guide

Product Details

  • File Size: 4414 KB
  • Print Length: 386 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (July 9, 2013)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00B0LP3TQ
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #99,057 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
38 of 39 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Much better book than people are saying. July 14, 2013
This book reminded me of Mankell's book "Depths". Having read so many of his books, my favorite being "The Man From Beijing", I marvel at the breadth of his talent. Sure there are moments in which to make the story progress he used a few devices such as the ease with which Hanna learned Portuguese and how quickly bad fortune turned into quite good fortune. What kept me fascinated was the painstaking effort that Mankell went to to show the wicked hubris with which European countries thought they could civilize African nations. That's mainly what the book is about and if he's a bit heavy-handed in trying to make his case, it's still quite effective. (South Africa's years of apartheid were just as bad but the first settlers arrived in the 1600's and became such an integral part of the country, it was hard to make a clear delineation of who belonged where so many generations later. Not much different from manifest destiny in the US--we all have skeletons in our closets.)

I found many things to like about the book, and Mankell is such a good writer that he was able to carry off Hanna's character as if the author had been a woman, instead of a man known for his hard-boiled Detective Wallendar series. Read it all the way through, and the "Afterword" in which he describes what brought him to write such an unusual story about a Swedish woman who owns a brothel in Lourenco Marques. Very interesting.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Everybody Lies July 30, 2013
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Henning Mankell is credited for being the first author of Scandinavian crime thrillers to reach an international audience (although he has credited Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo for his own inspiration). His Kurt Wallander series were notable due to his flawed and all-too-human detective with an incredibly strong backstory. Each novel in the series dispensed with the usual formula, and many had ties to other countries, several of them in Africa. Mankell's knowledge of and love for that continent run deep seeing as he spends half the year in Mozambique.

A Treacherous Paradise is the latest of several historical novels that explain and illuminate his second home. Based on the thinnest of historical fact, that of the tax rolls of the town where his heroine owned a brothel in the early 20th century, Mankell delivers a saga of how Hanna came ashore in Laurenco Marques and found herself faced with unexpected reactions to racism and inequality. What she learns about herself and passes onto the reader is the result of Mankell's evocative prose and storytelling prowess. This is definitely the best of his African histories.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Stiff as a Board January 27, 2014
Narrative, semi-stream of consciousness at times. It tries to create what it was like for a Scandinavian woman at the beginning of the 1900's as she makes her way from Sweden to South Africa. The book then tries to come to terms with the poverty and essential slavery of the blacks in South Africa.

My mom had described some books as "one more chapter and we'll see if it improves....but it never does, and somehow you wind up finishing the book anyway". This is one of those books.

Cons: Stiff, almost completely narrative passages that approach death and brutality with all the emotion of eating a biscuit. Almost complete dissociation with the time period for a (partially) historical novel. Characters are two dimensional and almost as flat as...well... a board. Maybe Mankell is trying to let us pick emotions for the character by totally leaving emotion out of the book, if so, its not working for me.

I have yet to figure out what target audience this book fits. I have seriously tried. It doesn't fit as a travelogue, nor an action epic or a romance. It's too thinly done to be a philosophical treatise and isn't historically coordinated enough to allow us to associate it with South African treatment of blacks at the time. If someone can figure out a class or sub-class this book falls into, I'd like to know what it is. I just can't think of a target audience that this book written for.

Probably the philosophical triangle here is treatment of blacks versus treatment of women (whores in particular) versus treatment of poor (portion set in Sweden) versus responsibility of the upper or ruling class (Sweden or SA).
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars treacherous paradise August 15, 2013
the marquez/100 years of solitude influence is readily apparent.

what i really don't understand is why it does not seem to occur to mr mankell's protagonist, hanna, to return home with her windfall of great wealth, and rescue her family from their crushing and bitter poverty.

seems a natural human instinct, but is as yet missing from the character's maunderings?
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I surprised myself by enjoying this book immensely August 1, 2013
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I surprised myself by enjoying this book immensely. I found the writing to be almost poetic. I liked the story of life in the beginning of the twentieth century, and its main character, the young, poor, naïve, illiterate Swedish girl, Hanna, whose loving mother told her she must leave home and start a life of her own because there was insufficient food at home for her and her younger siblings. I liked reading about the people she met and her two marriages. I liked seeing her develop on her own, how she did it, frequently bemused and bewildered, and how she ended up in Africa and how she managed there. The description of how the white people treated blacks in Africa, how the blacks reacted, and her observations were very interesting.

I say that I was surprised because I had enjoyed Mankell's crime novels and thought that most action writers do not succeed when they write other kinds of books. Therefore I avoided his novels about Africa. I thought this was a crime novel and started reading it, and I was delighted to find that I was wrong about Mankell's ability.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A worthwhile read that is NOT in the Kurt Wallander detective series
I have read several of Mankell's books,mostly in the Kurt Wallander detective series. Mankell writes in Swedish and since I must read his books in the English translation it is... Read more
Published 1 day ago by Carolyn F. Douglas
2.0 out of 5 stars Two Stars
Not my type of book
Published 11 days ago by Irene McGrath
5.0 out of 5 stars Should be a mini series!
Great, sprawling story of a very different time and place.
Published 1 month ago by randy j thompson
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 1 month ago by Charles M. Davis
5.0 out of 5 stars he's my next favorite writer of suspense
I believe I've now read all of Mankell's books. Next to Baldacci, he's my next favorite writer of suspense.
Published 1 month ago by Nickie
1.0 out of 5 stars Read like a Gothic novel
Read like a Gothic novel. Have read several books by this author and enjoyed them. This book was trite and predictable
Published 1 month ago by Joan Kagan Levine
3.0 out of 5 stars A Gulliver's Travels for Colonial East Africa
In the opening chapters of A Treacherous Paradise, by Henning Mankell, a young woman leaves a life of desperate poverty in rural Sweden in 1904 to seek her fortune aboard a sailing... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Lori Eshleman
4.0 out of 5 stars Historical fiction with thrill
Great read! It took me back in time to colonial, Portuguese east Africa. I am a fan of Mankell and I just keeping reading the next in whatever series. Read more
Published 2 months ago by mmsudrow
5.0 out of 5 stars Love this author and his detective inspector Kurt Wallendar
Love this author and his detective inspector Kurt Wallendar. Very well written, one of the best crime fiction novelists around.
Published 3 months ago by Jean
5.0 out of 5 stars Read something by Mankell!
A really great read. Markell is great. I'm reading all of his books
Published 3 months ago by J. Huber
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More About the Author

Henning Mankell's Kurt Wallander mysteries are global bestsellers and have been adapted for television as a BAFTA Award-winning BBC series starring Kenneth Branagh. Mankell was awarded the Crime Writers' Association's Macallan Gold Dagger and the German Tolerance Prize, among many others. He divides his time between Sweden and Mozambique.


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