Hanna’s Daughters A Novel of Three Generations

reviewed by Carol Elde

Hanna’s Daughters A Novel of Three Generations By Marianne Fredriksson. Copyright 1994, English translation 1996

"The sins of the fathers are inflicted on the children into the third and fourth generation," begins Marianne Frediksson in the foreword of her contemporary Swedish novel, Hanna’s Daughters. "What about the deeds of mothers?" she goes on to muse. And furthermore, are we not a generation of independent persons capable of taking our destinies into our own hands?

Well I guess not, or we would not have books such as this one, filled with rich narrative and description about the lives of Hanna, Johanna, and Anna and the patterns which repeat from generation to generation. This is positive, for the "sins" are human themes of survival, work, love, relationships, sexuality, family, meaning making, spirituality, caring for others, and much more through the lives of these women. The family history follows the female lineage in Sweden from the 1870s to the 1960s. During this time Sweden moved from an agricultural society to a more commercial and informational society. These Swedes did not emigrate and were not Mission Society Friends, but their stories may resonate with you in many ways.

Anna begins the story going back over the lives of her mother and grandmother. Anna is a writer and a bit lost in how to relate to her mother, Johanna, who is close to death and living in a nursing home. As part of her academic work Anna is going through past journals piecing together the family history. After her mother’s death, Anna goes through her childhood home cleaning out the things that have been carried from place to place through the generations. The Värmland sofa was a definite keeper for a variety of reasons.

This is a book to awaken one’s own memories of each of our mothers, grandmothers, aunts, sisters, fathers, grandfathers, uncles, and brothers. It is a family saga which is rich in Swedish culture, visual images and imagination. If you so choose, happy reading!

Carol Elde is a counselor who works for United Health Group in the Twin Cities.

See all articles by Carol Elde