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A Treacherous Paradise Hardcover – Deckle Edge


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; First Edition edition (July 9, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307961222
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307961228
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.5 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (124 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #69,147 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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

Review

“A fascinating new novel [with] unusual flavor. It often reads like a fable of folktale . . . Reminiscent of Latin American magic realism, transplanted to Africa . . . Carlos the chimp might have come out of a Garcia Marquez novel, and the richly colored details of brothel life could be from a sprawling Jorge Amado tale. . . . [A] sensuous, beguiling tapestry.”
—William Boyd, The New York Times Book Review
 
“Mankell's narrative incorporates comments on racism, colonialism and the treatment of women, and his love of Africa has not blinded him to many abiding issues which he makes timelessly resonant, despite the period setting. . . . [But] Any polemical points are never foregrounded but are allowed to be grace notes in a saga of sex, race and the shifting balance of power.”
—Barry Forshaw, The Independent
 
“Mankell uses his deep knowledge of Mozambique’s history and politics to great advantage in this unusual and riveting story.”
—Kathy Stevenson, The Daily Mail
 
“Impressively deft . . . By the time it ends, readers might be surprised how far they have traveled . . . both literally and psychologically. It’s a testament to how powerfully moving and nuanced Mankell’s books can be, when he turns his attention away from corpses and world-weary detectives.”
—Doug Childers, Tampa Tribune
 
“[An] engrossing tale of a woman cast adrift in an alien world. . . . How she confronts the loneliness and racism of her unique place spins out in Mankell's masterful prose. As always with Mankell, the characters are brilliantly conceived.”
—Margaret Cannon, The Globe and Mail
 
“[An] intriguing tale . . . It keeps you guessing to the end.”
—Tina Moran, The Sunday Express
 
“The story is well put together and never less than absorbing.”
—Owen Richardson, The Age
 
“The prose (translated by Laurie Thompson) is crisp and clear yet atmospheric as it conjures tensions that would simmer for decades then explode into open rebellion. . . . This novel confirms his ability to present a central character plausibly and sympathetically, a creative talent that shines throughout this absorbing, speculative construct.”
—Philip Altbeker, The Times (South Africa)
 
“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, Booklist
 
 “A story as magical as a fairy tale and just about as brutal too.”
Kirkus Reviews
 
“[Mankell’s] gift lies in the creation of a sequence of events that is credible and illuminating. The proverbial stranger in a strange land, Hanna is the lens that exposes the ugly realities of racism, sexism, and colonialism—easy targets, obviously, but this book is very much of a piece with Mankell’s nongenre, and more polemical works. Hanna is a curious mix of helplessness and fortitude, and her story, like the story of Africa itself, is tragically sad.”
Publishers Weekly

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.

Customer Reviews

The pace was very slow and many times I started to just put it down.
JANA K. BRADLEY
The book's main character, Hanna, along with every other character in the book, does not seem real.
BahamaMama
It was very interesting and different from his mystery books but just as good.
Linda Lee Wilson

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

29 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Sharon E. Jensen on July 14, 2013
Format: Hardcover
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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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By K. L. Cotugno VINE VOICE on 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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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By ForceProtection1 on August 15, 2013
Format: Hardcover
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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46 of 61 people found the following review helpful By ross on June 30, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I have not finished this book and doubt that I will, The writing seems flat to me, with too many repetitions especially in the opening chapters. The African section has interesting details about the place which Mankell can supply because he lives there part of the time but I found a huge hole in the plot, namely the heroine Hanna is a illiterate girl from a remote part of Sweden, she comes to the city and works as a maid '12 hours a day' according to the narrative, despite this and her brief stay at the house she is able to learn to read and write Swedish, itself a doubtful idea but what's worse she finds a Swedish Portuguese dictionary 'in the wastebasket' the rationale being that her boss throws out a whole lot of books every now and again. This seems improbable in 1904 when books would be expensive, surely a born again christian as her boss is would give the books to charity etc not destroy them. But more incredible is an illierate maid who is learning Swedish would be able to gain so much from a langauge dictionary. This plot set up is only there to explain how when she is in a Portuguese colony in Africa she is able to understand conversations immediately. This is absurd and from then on I lost interest in the novel. In the Wallender series Mankell was able to use the detective as an alter ego and supply the kind of personal detail that made the character believable. In making the central character of this novel a young woman nothing that happens seems particularly individual or unusual, perhaps it gets better, but I'm not going to force myself to finish it, it doesn't have the magic of any of the Wallender books.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Israel Drazin TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 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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