Book Review: When children pay for the sins of adults

By The Red Witch on 1:53 AM

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Children are punished for their parents’ sins – this, to me, is the main idea behind the novel ‘Shadow’ by Karin Alvtegen.
The notorious Swedish writer, author of several other detective novels, and winner of the Glass Key Award(in 2001) and the Palle Rosenkrantz Prize, namely for her novel “Shadow”(in 2007), has already received fame and recognition for her detective stories and this one serves as yet another proof of her remarkable skill for storytelling.
“Shadow” is not an exception from the whodunit genre, but it completes it, and improves it exceptionally by going beyond the borders of the genre and into the psychological thriller genre.
Before you continue reading this review though, lets get one thing straight: if you are looking for a novel full of drama and suspense, “Shadow” is all of this, and more. But if you are more into whodunits ala Agatha Christie, I suggest that you find something else to read. By this, I mean that “Shadow” is more than just another whodunit.  Although initially plotted as one, it deals more with the moral choices which each of us faces at any given moment in our lives, and the consequences of these choices –consequences which outlive us and are passed onto our children, our sins which live on in our offspring.
“Shadow” tells the story of a disrupted family from the writing circles. The father – Axel Ragnerfeld, is a winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature for his novel “Shadow”, and founder of numerous foundations and charities.  In the beginning of the story he is at a clinic where he waits for his death, as he is very old and very ill. In charge of his legacy is his son Jan-Erik – a failed writer and an alcoholic, who, through alcohol, numerous affairs and constant trips is trying to escape the boredom and coldness of his unsuccessful marriage.
 When the body of the family’s maid of over 50 years – Gerda- is discovered,  Social Services also find in her freezer some of Axel Ragnerfeld’s novels, signed by him. Social Services employee Marian Folkeson then contacts the Ragnerfeld family hoping that they would help her to organize Gerda’s funeral, since she had no living relatives.
From this moment on all the dusty secrets that were lying dormant in the Ragnerfeld family begin to surface – all the things left unsaid, all the sins that were fast asleep for decades now begin to awaken and prepare to shift their burden onto the sinners’ offspring.
Being a huge fan of whodunits, I have to say that I was very nicely surprised by “Shadow”. What impressed me the most were the lively, realistic and multilayered portraits of all the characters.
 They are all ordinary people who are put into unusual situations, disappointed people who are forced to maintain the façade of being happy and prosperous, people who are too proud to reveal their unhappiness, people who scream voicelessly for attention
 Another important topic that the book heavily discusses is the publishing business - the complicated and very often uneasy relationship between authors, agents and publishing houses and the pressure that the publishing houses sometimes exercise on authors to bring them good, readable, valuable content before a certain deadline. If the author is pressured in such a way, usually the effect is quite the opposite of what the publishing house wants to achieve- the author’s inspiration disappears.
What happens when you lose your inspiration? How do you get it back? How can you live according to the high expectations of everyone around you without breaking down? How do you compromise between the topics you want to write about, and the ones which are en vogue and likable by the large masses? To what extent does a novel belong to its author and to what extent does it belong to the people who helped him write it? Is it possible to make the love of your life come back to you if you dedicate an entire novel to her? What is the price of literary fame? Why do our children have to pay for our mistakes?
Reading the novel “Shadow” won’t give you answers to any these questions. No, instead it will show you which way to go, in order to find them yourself.

2 comments for this post

So how come... du läste inte boken på svenska? :D

Posted on October 15, 2009 at 10:23 PM  

Eftersom boken som jag fick i present översattes till bulgariska :)

Du vet väl att man inte kan köpa några böcker på svenska här ;-)

Posted on October 16, 2009 at 6:52 PM  
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