Saturday, May 18, 2013

Anna Märklin's Family Chronicles, by Dorte Hummelshoj Jakobsen

I've been a bit remiss about getting to this book, but not for lack of trying. The author was kind enough to let me download a copy of the book from Smashwords, but neither of my electronic readers seemed to be inclined to take it. (A problem with the ereaders, not the publication.) I'd been away for awhile and decided to charge up my Kobo, and suddenly, voila, there it was.

I became acquainted with this Danish author's work first through her blog, then through some of her short stories, and finally through her mystery novel, The Cozy Knave, which I reviewed HERE. As the title implies, that book was written in the tradition of the British cozy and was a quite successful take on it. But Jakobsen's new book is from a different part of the genre spectrum all together.

It begins with the story of Anna Storm, who makes a shocking discovery in her neighbor Karin's apartment. We don't get to learn exactly what that discovery is right away, however, because the story then sets up in earnest a few months before this event. You know how Shakespeare writes "What's past is prologue"? Well, in this case, what's prologue is the future. I found this a bit confusing, but only because I am not expert enough on my Kobo to get back to the beginning and check dates.

Anna, our protagonist, is at a crossroads in her life. She is unemployed and having a lot of trouble making ends meet, and also seems to be feeling a bit ambivalent about her fiancé, Lars. Meanwhile, Anna receives the bad news that her father is dying and besides feeling grief, also realizes that this may well be the last chance she has to learn about her father's mother, or farmor, about whom her father has always been reticent.

This leads to the second major thread of the story, in which we are treated to the diary/sketchbook of Anna's farmor. Anna Märklin wrote and sketched in it when she was only a young teenager in Sweden. Although we can't see it, Anna describes what she draws effectively enough for us to visualize it. As her granddaughter Anna Storm begins her own quest to find out what happened, we also get to see the story unfold through Anna Märklin's eyes.

I was really taken with this book. I have had a lot going on in my own life in the last week or so, but I really found that I could hardly put it down. I had a suspicion about one of the several mysteries that this book reveals, but that hardly mattered. For me, the two biggest strengths of this book are the way Anna Storm's story is told, so that we both see and don't see what is going on, and secondly, the very beautiful passages in the girlhood diary of Anna Märklin, highly evocative and, as the story grows darker (as you know it will) very moving. In fact, I think some of these passages are the best work that Jakobsen has done.

And it's all very, very far from The Cozy Knave, which is neither a good thing or a bad thing, but only goes to show how impressive Jakobsen's range really is.



  1. What a lovely review!

    And I suppose I should be happy no matter what my readers like, but nothing pleases me more than a reader who appreciates young Anna Märklin's diary :)

    The Cosy Knave was for fun, this one was a labour of love.

    PS: I found your review yesterday, and now I understand why the sales of this book were better than usual last weekend.

  2. My pleasure, Dorte. I hope it did help it pick up some readers. I noticed that this post got an unusual number of hits all at once, and I can't account for that, but maybe it got picked up somewhere.