Hanna’s Daughters

by Marianne Fredriksson

Hanna, Johanna, and Anna – three generations of Swedish women, grandmother, mother, daughter. This novel by Marianne Fredriksson was an impulse buy – I’d just come home from ten days with my mother, and missed the mother-daughter dynamic. I expected something light and fluffy, instead, I got to read the histories of three fictional women, and about how their social inheritance of manners and gender roles informed their lives and choices.

Anna’s story really bookends the other two, for the novel is her interpretation, first as a thesis then as a novel, of the women who raised her, but taken as a whole, it’s a fascinating look at how in some fashion we are all our mother’s daughters, even when we don’t wish to be.

The first third of the novel was difficult to read, both because of the content (there’s a rape of a very young girl) and because the grammar reflects the uneducated way of speaking Hanna had, with funky verb tenses. Until I got to the next section, I was almost convinced that this was just a really bad translation, but it was done for effect.

I wouldn’t recommend this as a light reading, but if you’re in the mood for a respite from dealing with small business phone systems and endless faxes, and want to really explore generational culture…this book is a great addition to the pile.