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Simon's Family: A Novel of Mothers and Sons Paperback – April 4, 2000
This month's Book With Buzz: "Little Fires Everywhere" by Celeste Ng
From the bestselling author of Everything I Never Told You, a riveting novel that traces the intertwined fates of the picture - perfect Richardson family and the enigmatic mother and daughter who upend their lives. See more
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From Publishers Weekly
Swedish novelist Fredriksson follows her international bestseller, Hanna's Daughters, with a chronicle, set before and during WWII, of two families and the schoolboy friendship that links them. When 11-year-old Simon Larsson visits the home of his Jewish classmate Isak Lentov, he discovers how the wealthy live. When Isak visits Simon, he finds nurturing love in the care of Simon's mother, Karin; soon he moves in with the Larssons. As the boys grow up together, Simon emulates the intellectual pursuits of Isak's father, Ruben, while Isak strives to gain the craftsmanship and manual strength of Simon's father, Erik. At first, the evil in Germany seems far away; then as Erik goes off to the army, news of atrocities abroad reach home, and Norwegian ships that cannot return to their Nazi-occupied land seek harbor in the boys' seaside town. Each member of the blended family confronts painful memories that surface in their fears and dreams. Karin and Erik remember bitter manipulative parents. Isak recalls his family's years in Berlin, when he suffered physical abuse, first from his authoritarian grandfather, and then from the new Nazi state; Ruben worries about his mad wife, now confined to an asylum. Roaming the coast in dissatisfied reveries, Simon imagines alternate origins for himself, even after his parents tell him the secret truth about his birth. Fredriksson depicts the psychological aftermath of cruelty through the ebb and flow of interior monologues, adhering to time-honored parallels between the characters' harsh longings and the stark beauty of the remote Swedish seascape. The second half of the lengthy tale follows the boys and their families to adulthood: Simon is involved in an army scandal, Karin falls ill and Isak becomes a father. Fredriksson's prose has, at its best, the clarity of a child's-eye view. At worst, it's distractingly awkward and overliteral: the lathe-worker who trains Isak "could feel a quiet happiness when he occasionally had a boy with intelligence in his hands as well as the passion for being exact." Already a bestseller in Germany, the novel contrasts the human capacity for suffering with a heartfelt optimism: these sentiments, along with the Swedish setting, enhance the story's appeal. (Aug.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
This quietly moving story of family, friendship, and love, by the author of Hanna's Daughters , has already become an international best-seller and will no doubt capture the hearts of American readers as well. Simon Larsson is a pensive and thoughtful boy growing up in Sweden during World War II, fortunate to be safe within a remarkably loving and cohesive community. Half Jewish, he is being raised by his Scandinavian aunt and uncle, who adopted him as their own at birth. In a novel rich in mystical overtones, his adoptive parents take on truly archetypal dimensions. Karin's deep love and compassion is matched by Erik's understated strength and stoicism, and together they create a firm family base from which 11 year-old Simon can grow and dream. But Simon, who doesn't know the story of his birth and adoption, seems set apart from his Scandinavian world by his dark hair and olive complexion, and he often retreats into fantasies to alleviate his feelings of disconnection. When he befriends Isak Lentov, a young Jewish boy from Germany, their families become close in spite of the contrast between Isak's father's religious faith and the Larssons' strictly secular Swedish socialism. These two opposing viewpoints help form a unique framework for Simon and Isak as they come of age and work toward finding meaning in their lives, and as Fredriksson explores relations between fantasy, myth, and reality. Catherine Sias --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
This story of Simon and his family, a title also appropriate since the story is as much about them as him, is a beautiful one and its rare nowadays to find novels of such emotional depth and sense of beauty expressed so well and so gently. This is not to say it does not note other painful things in life and so the novel becomes an honest portrayal of life in pre-war and post-war Sweden. Luckily Sweden escaped most of the ravages of the Holocaust because of its neutrality but that doesn't mean its people didn't suffer nonetheless. However, this novel is mainly concerned with the people of the story and their lives, their troubles, angst, problems and so on, the fear instilled by the Nazis is very real and ever present in the minds of Isak and Ruben, Isak's father and wealthy book merchant. The differences between the Jewish life of Ruben and Isak are not stressed so much as their friendship and eventual family bond with the Larsson family (Karin, Eric, Simon).
Even though the natural world forms a part of the story, as it often does in Scandinavian tales, this is not as deeply brought out as the interaction inside the families themselves and so the novel is very human and not infused with the other world of trees, plants and animals which can be found in say "The Forest of Hours".
A novel of great depth and beauty.