"In the same way as there's a partner for every person, there's a place. All you have to do is find the one that's yours among the billions that belong to someone else, you have to be awake, you have to choose." With this conviction in mind, the central character of this engaging and profound novel by acclaimed Swedish writer Bodil Malmsten abandons her native country at the age of 55 to settle in Brittany. For six months she is mind-lessly happy. Then, one fateful February day, she promises her elegant neighbour Madame C to write about her beloved "bit of paradise". At the heart of this portrait of a new life is the conviction that the happiness to be found in Finist-re will not allow itself to be, cannot be, expressed in writing. Embroidered around this seeming paradox are poignant, outraged and thought-provoking observations on the widest range of subjects: how not to buy plants, the elicit pleasures of bargain-hunting, the misery of writer's block, social democracy, racism everywhere, tulipomania, the stubbornness of bank managers, the controlling of moles and slugs, death, political hypocrisy, the delights of wild weather.
Malmsten's passion and humour shine through every episode she describes, however minor, offering the reader a window onto a solitary life at once touching, thought-provoking and, occasionally, hilarious.
Buy The Price of Water in Finistere book by Bodil Malmsten from Australia's Online Independent Bookstore, Boomerang Books.
(205mm x 136mm x 22mm)
The Harvill Press
Publisher: Vintage Publishing
Country of Publication:
US Kirkus Review »
A Swedish writer and poet well known in her native land makes her U.S. debut with a serenely ironic memoir about life in a small Breton town. In 2000, 55-year-old Malmsten took her Swedish pension and headed south from central Norrland on the trans-European motorway to find a new life. She carried little with her except a love of history and a sense of social justice, qualities evident throughout these delightfully meandering reflections. Somewhere near Brest, in France, Malmsten discovered a parcel of paradise "where the land comes to an end in Europe-fin des terres, finis terrae-Finistere" and proceeded to dig in. She gradually fashioned an elaborate garden (despite the high price of water) with the help of gardening books in several languages, plans she drew up herself and well-meaning neighbors eager to dispense advice. One important daily visitor was the exquisitely elegant widow Madame C, who gently corrected the author's French-in-progress and first planted the idea of writing a book about Finistere. The author reflects here on the advantages and disadvantages of being a stranger. She describes the Swedish welfare state and a maddening confrontation with the Social Insurance Office (dubbed by its victims "the Social Insulting Office") that led to her emigration. She portrays the family members who have shaped her character: Grandma, who had large hands and a beautiful peony garden, and Malmsten's privileged father, who joined the international socialist organization Clarte in the 1930s. The author shared his principles enough to abruptly break with Monsieur Le R, a fellow gardener and admirer, when he revealed a racist nature. Yet in her text she expresses both admiration and revulsion for Sultan Mehmet of Istanbul, a brutal dictator but a gorgeous gardener. No matter how serious her reflections, Malmsten always delivers them with a light touch, and she's perfectly willing to laugh at herself, especially when recounting hilarious faux pas in her adopted language. Deft and stylish. (Kirkus Reviews)
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Author Biography - Bodil Malmsten
Born in Jamtland in northern Sweden, Bodil Malmsten lived in Stockholm for 40 years before moving to Brittany in 2000. Having started out as a children's author, she turned to TV and radio, then to writing, translating and directing plays for TV and the stage, including work by Joe Orton. Her first book of poems, published in 1977, was followed by six further collections and two volumes of short stories. Malmsten is active as a journalist and public speaker, and is also the author of three prize-winning novels.