Why are historical novels so popular? Perhaps – I have sometimes thought – because we perceive the past as more vital than the present. Vitally – extraordinarily vital – is in any case the Swedish 1600s that Kristina Sjögren allows us to meet when, after five youth novels, she debuts as an adult writer.
One of the most funny sources of the book is the letter of the French ambassador, Chanut, about his long, hard trip to Stockholm: “I am convinced that it is less difficult to get to paradise than we experienced to come here,” he writes. His impression of Stockholm is a frozen hamlet without culture and with miserable food. Kristina Sjögren’s own pictures of the city have a far more loving tone. She does not close her eyes for poverty, dirt and stench, but she is deeply fascinated by what she perceives as the vibrant, dynamic diversity of the city and she poetically portrays the beauty of the changing seasons.
The question is whether it is not just that – yes, just that: The vital and historical Stockholm that though her words become so real, that is where the strength of the novel lies.