Picks and Pans Review: Hanna's Daughters
An award-winning international bestseller now making its U.S. debut, the Swedish novel Hanna's Daughters begins quietly. Sitting at her mother Johanna's deathbed, Anna, a writer in her 40s, realizes she longs to connect to both her mother and grandmother Hanna, whom she has never really known. Between vigils, Anna sifts through letters, diaries and photographs, piecing together the family's hard history. Poor, practical Hanna was raped at 12; her youngest child, Johanna, is a feminist who ends up miserably dependent on her husband; and older daughter Anna, despite her independence and education, finds she hasn't the will to leave her own womanizing husband.
Fredriksson provides a satisfyingly complex (though stiffly narrated) chronicle of women and the burdens imposed by their family history, their gender and themselves. Anna's emotional journey seems too neat and tidy, but that may be why the book has been such a phenomenon in Europe. Her resonant story (now translated into 33 languages) may be rooted in Scandinavia, but its message of reconciliation is transcendent. (Ballantine, $24)
Bottom Line: Uplifting family saga