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Lars Ardelius and Carin Svensson, Hammarens slag och hjärtats: roman om de första Vallonerna (Hammer blows and heartbeats: a novel about the first of the Walloons)

Ordfront,  2004. ISBN: 9170370354

Reviewed by Rick McGregor in SBR 2005:1

In Hammarens slag och hjärtats, established novelists Lars Ardelius and Carin Svensson have combined to write a historical novel set in the first half of the seventeenth century. Centred on foundry worker Martin Corneille, it chronicles the fortunes of a family of French-speaking Walloons from the southern part of Belgium who emigrate to Sweden. The narrative focus of the story switches back and forth between Martin, his mother Antoinette, sister Aimé and son Adolf as they leave their home of Valmont and travel to Sweden together with members of the Simon family from the neighbouring town of Hautefort. The Walloons have been recruited to populate the newly established iron-working settlement of Stora Stäv in Uppland, “ outpost under the North Star which became a permanent town giving warmth and protection where everything was held together by the blows of the hammer”. Martin later becomes a scribe and his sister marries a clergyman and moves to the university city of Uppsala, but the lives of the whole family revolve around the traditional occupation of this early group of immigrants to Sweden. This novel is reminiscent of Mina drömmars stad (The City of My Dreams), Per Anders Fogelström’s historical novel about a young man who moves to Stockholm. Like Fogelström’s novel, it follows the lives and loves of members of the family over the course of several decades. After a slightly halting start the novel starts to lift as the characters are filled out and the reader becomes more interested in their fates. Though lacking perhaps in literary depth, Hammarens slag och hjärtats is well written and provides interesting insight into the lives of a distinctive group of immigrants to Sweden at the time of the Thirty Years’ War.

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