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Anna Svärd by Selma Lagerlöf

Anna Svärd (1928)

by Selma Lagerlöf

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This concluding part of the Löwensköld trilogy follows very closely on Charlotte Löwensköld, the second book, and resembles it much more than The Löwensköld Ring, the little gothic ghost story that started this trilogy. It’s quite tricky to review without tossing spoilers around. A lot of the beauty of Lagerlöf’s writing here rests on some quite impressive character arcs, with people going through pretty big changes, and more than a few big twists of the “Oh, no you DIDN’T” variety. Therefore, reviewing this book without spoilers runs the risk of writing a lot of sentences like “Due to some things that happen in the previous books, Karl-Artur starts this book in a certain frame of mind, which Thea, due to some things that happened to HER in the second book is not late to take advantage of”. Which, I’m guessing, won’t anyone especially happy. Still, I’ll give it a go.

In the previous book, Karl-Artur the priest, who loves God so much but has such a hard time with people, gets engaged to the wandering sales woman Anna Svärd after making a hasty vow of marrying the first one he meets after breaking up with Charlotte. The collision of expectations between the priest obsessed with poverty wanting a wife to fit this bill and the working class woman eager to marry into a better life is the foundation of this novel, and it’s pretty heart-wrenching following the marriage. Around this core Lagerlöf continues to wrap her theme of reconciliation and forgiveness. There’s a lot to like here. The destructive backing from Thea (my favorite character, a sickening worm but fully relatable) which in the end takes on grotesque proportions. How Lagerlöf suddenly gives voice to a minor character, letting them take the leading part in a single chapter, like Jaquette’s one act of bravery. And how far she is prepared to take her main characters, how ruthlessly she’s prepared to handle them. There is more than one gasp moments here.

It’s really only in the end, when she tries to wrap up the whole trilogy (with a first part that doesn’t quite fit with the rest) that Lagerlöf stumbles. She loses her main character somewhere along the way (literally!), introduces some new storylines annoyingly late and even resorts to cheap action. It doesn’t quite work, until the last chapter and it’s delicious question mark.

All in all, Charlotte Löwensköld is by far the best book in this trilogy, perhaps Selma Lagerlöf’s finest even. But Anna Svärd is a good read, and a worthy conclusion. ( )
1 vote GingerbreadMan | Feb 22, 2011 |
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