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Fågelbarn Christin Ljungqvist, Fågelbarn (Bird Children)

Gilla Böcker,  2013.

Reviewed by Mia Österlund in SBR 2015:2

Review Section: Fiction - Children's, YA and Crossover

Christin Ljungqvist’s trilogy Kaninhjärta (Rabbit Heart, 2012), Fågelbarn (Bird Children, 2013) and Rävsång (Fox Song, 2014) is a perfect example of the use of fantasy in books for both young and adult readers. Evocative, uncanny and beautiful, these novels make the most of the genre. What Maria Gripe did for young adult fiction in the 1980s, when she extended realism by adding an unforgettable touch of the supernatural, Ljungqvist does for the contemporary crossover novel. The trilogy focuses on a dysfunctional family, with parents who have abdicated responsibility and sensitive children depicted through animal metaphors.

Fågelbarn, narrated from little sister Hanna’s point of view, tells the story of Jens, an evil boy who tortures, ruins and brings disorder to everything he touches. His brother Samuel, the sensitive one, is especially haunted by Jens. Hanna, who can see the dead, including both her brothers – as in the post-mortem photographs of a century ago – struggles to come to terms with her past. As in Alejandro Almenábar’s 2001 film ‘The Others’, the encounters with the dead challenge and unsettle our perception of reality. Who is really guilty of all the horrific things that happen? This is a question that lingers on in the reader’s mind.

Christin Ljungqvist is a master of stylistic register, whether ethereal or robust. Following current trends in Swedish prose, while depicting in precise language the painful process of growing up, Ljungqvist has made a highly individual mark on the literary landscape.

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