Albert Bonniers förlag, 2011. ISBN: 9789100125943
Reviewed by Marie Andersson in SBR 2012:1
Linda Olsson is an unusual author. Born in Sweden in 1948, but living in Auckland, New Zealand since 1990, she has written The Kindness of your Nature, her third novel, in parallel Swedish and English versions. The first two books, Let Me Sing You Gentle Songs and Sonata for Miriam, were both written in English and published in New Zealand before being translated and published in Sweden. They immediately became immensely popular in several countries. The story of all three books takes place in Sweden as well as in New Zealand.
Curious to read The Kindness of your Nature, I set out eagerly, but soon found it too slow. I persevered, though, and like a thistle that gets stuck to your sweater, it is hard to shake off once you’re drawn into the story. Linda weaves her tale slowly and carefully, letting you open each door to a new passage as the story unfolds. And if you do follow that path, she invites you to see wonderfully personal and warm portraits of characters, laden with tragedy but also with love and hope and the very essence of humanity – the kindness in us all, that we may think we have lost, or never even possessed.
Marion, is middle-aged and has lived for many years in elective solitude in a simple cottage on a remote beach in New Zealand. She is an artist who creates the new and buries the past. But the past has a funny way of catching up with us, as she becomes aware. The stray boy, ‘Ika’, whom she feeds and shelters, becomes a symbol for the mothering nature and sisterly role that she had to abandon, but for which she has been yearning. As her tragic past unfolds, we catch further glimpses of a very unlucky and unhappy little girl’s childhood. Her life was shattered as quickly as it had been restored, but it turns out that there is one final twist, impossible for the reader to guess. And that, in itself, is a mark of a really good novel.
Everything about Linda Olsson’s writing is permeated by nature, gentleness, longing and loving. She makes it personal, drawing you slowly but inevitably into her story, so that you care about the characters, as if they were your own kin. A strong sense of social justice, perhaps from her background as a lawyer, shines through in Marion’s fight for the boy Ika.And as for myself, I found some of Marion’s reflections were the same as my own:
‘I brushed my hand along my arm and realised it was no longer the skin of a young woman. Strange, I thought, how you live inside your body and somehow take it for granted that it would always be the same. And I suppose it was, but then again it was not. Everything that was me, was encapsulated inside my body, but it bore no real resemblance to how it had looked on the various occasions in my life that were stored in my memory.’