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Astrid and Veronika Paperback – February 6, 2007

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 259 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; First Edition edition (February 6, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0143038079
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143038078
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.5 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (89 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #139,316 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In Swedish novelist Olsson's somber debut, Veronika Bergman returns to Sweden after a childhood following her diplomat father around the world (her mother abandoned the family), and after publishing her first novel titled Single, One Way, No Luggage. She rents a small house in a rural town to work on her second, but in solitude finds herself seized by feverish dreams and paralyzed by the "stillness" of the landscape and the memories of her recently dead fiancé. Reclusive septuagenarian Astrid Mattson, thought by the village to be a witch, takes an interest in Veronika, and the two strike up a friendship based on loss. Against the backdrop of the changing seasons and their small, plangent houses, the two women slowly tell each other their most closely guarded secrets (which concern their mothers and lovers), and venture, tentatively, out of the safety of their routines. Olsson has a clear feel for the emotional wellsprings of both characters, but can't convert her terse lyricism into a fully realized story. (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Veronika, a 30-year-old Swedish writer, rents a home in a remote village to finish work on her second novel. Her only neighbor for miles is Astrid, a reclusive octogenarian who has earned a reputation (perhaps undeserved) as the village witch. Veronika and Astrid gradually become friends, taking long walks and sipping wine made from the wild strawberries in Astrid's garden. Each shares painful secrets along the way. Veronika abandoned a devoted boyfriend to take up with a bartender from New Zealand. They fell passionately in love, then tragedy befell him, leaving Veronika incapacitated by grief. Astrid endured sexual abuse from her father and a long loveless marriage to a man chosen by him. Until now, she has never told anyone the truth about her infant daughter's death. This is the first novel for Olsson, a native of Stockholm who now lives in New Zealand. Though the pace of her narrative lags at times, readers of Anne Tyler and Jodi Picoult will appreciate the lyrical prose and expert rendering of the themes of heartbreak and loss. Allison Block
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Customer Reviews

The book was very good, although it left some questions unanswered.
Emily J. Mills
During my own life, I have experienced friendships with women that are older than I, and often those are my favorite and most cherished relationships.
Suzanne Dobbins
The novel is well written with an excellent sense of both characters and setting.
Constant Reader

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

44 of 45 people found the following review helpful By Constant Reader on September 13, 2007
Format: Paperback
This is a remarkable story of two women who meet under ordinary but perhaps unexpected circumstances. Astrid is practically a recluse who has lived almost her entire life under one roof. Veronika has traveled the world but at the time of their meeting she has retreated from her previous life and rented a secluded home in the countryside of Sweden that is within the view from Astrid's window. The two women have not led similar lives, they are not from similar backgrounds nor are they close in age. Each of them has separate reasons for distancing themselves from people and the world surrounding them. The contact between them begins reluctantly and continues very tentatively. With a very delicate touch and a precise focus, Olsson gradually removes veils of grief and allows the reader to watch a friendship grow between Astrid and Veronika as they share a brief time in the present and gradually share their pasts with each other. This is a very small story, set in a very small time and space, but it is totally captivating. While it is possible to read this novel as a story of one friendship, it also is a story of the power of human interaction to transform lives. Astrid and Veronika spend a relatively short time together, but as they find common ground they rediscover their essential humanity that enables each of them to better connect with their pasts and the world around them. Whether you view the essential common denominator as pain, as endurance or as love may be related to your personal view of the world. The novel is well written with an excellent sense of both characters and setting.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By M.D. Johns on May 27, 2009
Format: Paperback
I won't recap the story, as others have done that nicely. I will say that this book explores the relationship between two women, one who has always lived in one place, the other a world traveler, who come from different generations and different perspectives to share their respective losses and their respective guilt. In sharing, they are set free. What touched me so was the way the story was told. I did not find the movement from one time and place to another at all jarring. It seemed fairly seamless to me. What I enjoyed the most was the descriptions of places that were at once spare and lush, leaving enough to my imagination. The author writes with great discipline and an appreciation for detail.
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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Lola. M on June 10, 2007
Format: Paperback
This is the story of an unlikely friendship that develops between two women of dissimilar social backgrounds - Astrid, an 80-something recluse, who has never ventured out of her home town in Sweden, and Veronika, 31, who has traveled the world with her diplomat father and makes a living as a writer. When Veronika settles down in Sweden and buys a house opposite Astrid, they get to know each other as neighbours, and over time an intimate friendship develops.

Despite its shortness (250 pages), this is not one of those books that you can gulp down in one sitting. Instead, it is written in a manner that demands measured reading, frequent pauses and time for reflection. Each sentence is crafted with much attention to detail, tempo and mood. You can see that Linda Olsson is a great observer of people, with a fine eye for subtle nuances of body language.

My only criticism of the book is that it feels a bit disjointed at times. The story jumps from present to past as the main characters recount their lives. Just as you become fully engrossed in the plot of the past, however, you are jerked back into the present. Usually, I enjoy books with different layers of narrative, but in this instance - and to the credit of the author's beautiful writing - you become so emotionally invested in the story, you want it to continue on the same time scale. In short, I wish I had the chance to get to know the characters more fully - not just the major defining moments of their past, but also 'the in between'.

Nevertheless, I enjoyed this book for its fluid, beautiful writing and believable characters. ASTRID AND VERONIKA is an unusual tale of love and loss, friendship and healing that will stay with you for a long time.

I look forward to future works by this author.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Jamillah on August 4, 2007
Format: Paperback
The story kept me interested and overall I enjoyed it. I was left with several questions thought. Why did Astrid's mother commit suicide? Was Astrid afraid her own husband or her father would abuse Sara? Also, Veronika spoke of needing to face her own mothers abandonment of her, yet it was never addressed in the story, even when her father asked if she had spoken to her mother recently. Also, there was the weird statement at the end where the man says, "Sad the way she went, the old lady. But then, it was her choice" and then Olsson never explains that comment. What was that all about?
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Jenny H. on December 6, 2008
Format: Paperback
This book is billed as one of those "unlikely friendship between women" stories; the last one I'd read was distinctly awful, so I was wary of this one. It's Olsson's first novel. She clearly has some promise as a writer. Veronika, a twenty-something writer arriving in rural Sweden to work on her book, rents a house next to Astrid, who is about 78. It started out alright. A couple pages in: "[Veronika's] life slowly found its own organic rhythm. After a week she has established her morning routine. She got up early, had coffee at the kitchen table and watched to room absorb that growing daylight. It felt as if the house had accepted her, as if they had begun their life together. The soles of her feet had become familiar with the wooden stpes of the staircase, her nose accustomed to the smells of the walls, and she was gradually adding her own imprint, leaving minute traces."

The writing shows some descriptive talent. However, it's like this the whole book. Nearly everything is described this way, and it starts to get tedious rather quickly. As Veronika and Astrid meet, they both start to wake up to life or something, and start telling each other of their pasts. And the descriptions in their narrated stories are also this overdone and emotionally loaded.

So what had started out with some promise because incredibly tedious, very quickly. There's no sense of priority as far as what has significance; memories from years ago still contain bits about the angle and quality of the light on the floorboards. Every pause in conversation, every "Astrid said nothing" and "Veronika fell silent" is recorded, as is every detail of everything they pass when they walk together.
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