The Aspens

by Hanna Nordenhök

It is Endre, her brother's friend, who makes her come back. Back to Malmö, to the apartment where she grew up, and to Marga. It is Endre who hands her the wrinkled paper bag with the old documents from Råby, the youth detention centre where her brother ended up. "Because you write," Endre says. As Marga sleeps or leaves the house, Sussi writes; mother and daughter always in parallel with each other.

Among the documents is the private diary of baron Gyllenkrok, the founder of Råby, Sweden's first rescue house for uncivilized children. A man with an imperative desire to tame the wild. There is this boy, Petrus, raised in a poor neighbourhood in Malmö in the 1840s, separated from his brother after their mother's premature death. And there is this wolf, ominously kept on a leash at the baron's country manor. But there are also the wounded memories of her little brother, B., and the aspens, as a lost promise of a magical haven. There is also the sister, who during a hot and greyish summer has taken it upon herself to write it all.

Two pairs of siblings; two separate eras. The seemingly remote courses of events are drawn closer to each other, circling Råby like a magnetic epicentre.

The Aspens is a darkly concerted tale inspired by real events and places. It is a story about love between siblings and how social exposure drives them apart like a wedge. It deals with society's view on crime and punishment, inheritance and environment, how it is carried like an echo through centuries: antiquated, inadequate. Hanna Nordenhök ties a thread, thin and trembling like an aspen leaf, between fear and rescue in this hypnotic novel about an unforgiving place and its lost children, and with it she cements her position as a modern Swedish Duras.

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