One thing that is very clear in this, is that author Carol Elizabeth Skog is very passionate about her heritage and that this story is extremely meaningful to her. But sometimes something that is so personal and meaningful doesn’t always translate well to someone who isn’t familiar with the author or the setting.
Skog tries to tell the story of her Swedish heritage by framing it as a new, modern fairy tale.
Have you ever listened to someone who isn’t used to dealing with children try to explain something to them and they are talking ‘down’ to the kids … trying to put everything in the simplest terms as if the kids could never understand something so complicated? Yeah? Well that’s how I felt with this modern fairy tale. It was as though Skog doesn’t believe in the reader’s ability to understand what makes a fairy tale and she had to show it to us in ways so simple that even I could understand it.
Everything is repeated three times. Three times it is repeated. Three times. How can we not be annoyed, annoyed, annoyed to have to read it all, read it all, read it all three times? This is what I am referring to when I sense that this is very meaningful and personal to the author but doesn’t carry over well to the reader. It’s a style, a voice, that I just couldn’t capture.
At times I was confused if this was for children, or for adults. Most fairy tales that I am familiar with (and I am by no means well-versed in the genre) are actually written for adults. But take, for example, this passage:
Blinking, Blinking, Blinking, Suddenly I Seeeeeee, Easter time 1865. Wind howled; darkness encased me, chill embraced me, I shivered. Now I am in a most strange place indeed. I see people walking or arriving in horse-drawn wagons instead of cars. Anachronistic sense overwhelm me, myself displaced in a different time. I hope to learn where I am, whom I am with, and what I am doing here.
Oh me, oh my, how did I get from there to here? Standing up, I puzzled how I had suddenly arrived, in the community…*
(* Quotes come from an Advance Reading Copy and may not reflect the final language that is printed and published.)
Terms such as “anachronistic” are clearly for the adult reader, but the repetition and the “oh me, of my” strike me as juvenile.
Perhaps I’m being a bit harsh, but the bottom line is that I was not able to connect with the author on the fairy tale sensibility. It didn’t feel like a fairy tale to me.
However… the fairy tale story herein is only 50% of this already, mercifully brief book. After the tale comes an appendix of “Swedish Fairytale Elements,” a “Swedish Vocabulary,” a listing of “Swedish Holiday Foods” (complete with recipes), the “Author’s Genealogical Research,” and a listing of “Genealogy: Resources in Sweden and America.” For anyone interested in Swedish customs or genealogy, these are all worth the price of the book.
As the son of a 100% Swedish-American, and someone who was raised on Swedish holiday customs, I was hoping I might find a book with a little more insight to my heritage. The genealogical fairy tale didn’t do it for me, but some of the vocabulary and research items in the book were appreciated.
Looking for a good book? The modern, genealogical fairy tale aspect of this book didn’t work, but for those interested in Swedish genealogical research and customs, may find the second half of the book interesting and helpful.
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Enchantment Ädventyr, HCA and I Understand: A Swedish Genealogical Fairytale
author: Carol Elizabeth Skog
publisher: Nordic Scripts
hardcover, 104 pages