Originally published in Sweden in 1936, this novel is told through the eyes of seven-year-old Mia, as she observes her mother’s relationship with her handsome but hard-drinking and unfaithful husband. Booklist calls the novel, a poignant, yet unsettling documentary story that transcends time and place in its depiction of the struggles of the working poor, deserving of a place alongside such notables as Sinclair Lewis, Ole Rolvaag, and John Steinbeck."
Published in Sweden in 1936, the first volume of an autobiographical trilogy by Martinson (Women and Appletrees, 1985): a touching, richly detailed account of two years in the life of a family struggling for survival, seen through the eyes of a naive but observant girl. Mia is almost seven when the book opens, born illegitimate and in poverty. With her mother's marriage, Mia is to acquire a stable home and a stepfather - who, alas, is a wastrel with selfish, grasping relatives, except for his foster-mother, who proves to be a real friend. Mia and her mother Hedwig manage to stay together, seeking work in factory towns and on farms, repeatedly rising into the respectable working-class and then sliding back to lice-ridden degradation. Along the way, Mia forms strong attachments - notably with a supportive teacher and with stunted little Hanna, who lives in the poorhouse - that must be broken when the family moves on. Meanwhile, Hedwigemains the center of Mia's universe, but she is also a mystery: her inexplicable loyalty to her unreliable husband; her sudden transformations. Hedwig maintains civilized values even in the midst of grinding poverty (so much so that a fellow tenantfarmer's wife curtseys to her out of respect), but she becomes (when pregnant) a wan, frightened creature who shames her daughter by vomiting into the hedges in plain view of people passing on the road. The simplicity of the narrative has been well-served by the translator, who occasionally follows Swedish snytax, just enough to enhance the novel's flavor without being artificially cute. A vivid picture of working-class Swedish life and culture at the turn of the century, focusing on the experiences of women. (Kirkus Reviews)