Review of Blackwater, Kerstin Ekman

A poetic masterpiece

With a poetic language and a story that catches you from the first page, Kerstin Ekman has managed to write a masterpiece in a league of its own."

There’s something about Kerstin Ekman’s story about the village Blackwater and the barren nature surrounding it that touches me deep inside when reading it and I cannot really identify what it is. The atmosphere in the book is pressing, the feeling that something is wrong, very wrong grows stronger by the page and it reeks from each and every word. The river, the mire and the forest, there’s a tone loaded with anxiety surrounding the neighboring nature that reminds me of an old fairytale where magic lurks behind each and every corner. For that reason, Ekman would not surprise me if she for some reason would allow a troll or an elf to walk out from the bushes and catch somone unawares. Although they never show, I’m still convinced that they are out there and for some reason, I believe that some of the characters feel the same.

It’s Midsummer’s Eve and Annie and her young daughter Mia are on the way to the remote village of Blackwater, in the province of Jämtland in the northern part of Sweden. It’s 1974 and Annie, a teacher, has decided to leave her life in the city and move to her lover Dan in a small community outside the village. She has high expectations about the new life she’s hoping to find in the community, a part of the counter urbanization movement, where the small group of people are trying to live separated from modern society, with their farming and strong political opinions about solidarity, ecological thinking and socialism as the only source of livelihood. A fretting feeling inside of Annie tells her that Dan is not as trustworthy and loyal as she wants him to be, but she has decided that she need this change in her life, hence she pushes the feelings away and tries to focus on the future.
But as soon as they arrive to Blackwater, Annie realizes that something actually is wrong, really wrong. Dan is not waiting by the bus stand as he promised and as the evening changes into night, still almost as light as during the day, Annie becomes desperate and decides walk together with Mia up through the forest and over the mire to the small community farm. Only meeting one person on their walk and for some reason too scared to ask him for directions, she soon realizes they are lost. In the shadows, down by the river, Annie stumbles onto a small tent, torn in pieces and with traces of blood splashed on the ground.

The brutal double murder of the two unknown tourists shakes the small village and when no one is arrested for the crime, it affects the inhabitants more than they ever would have expected. Eighteen years later, Annie meets the man from that night again and the mire once again becomes dangerous to the people trying to pass through it…

“Blackwater” does not only focus on the brutal murder by the river, it also tells a story about a time when society changes, in particular in the rural areas, and how nature is being used in the name of progress. Ekman has caught the ambience of the 1970s very well; the naivety of the people living in the counter urbanization community, the rational and profit-minded forestry companies that come to clear-cut huge areas and leave the forest damaged and drained, as well as the despair that fills the inhabitants of Blackwater, something no one wishes to talk about, but still affecting them all. Slowly, the old community dies, depopulated and exhausted, leaving the few remaining residents with a feeling that they lost something essential through the years that passed, but they are not sure exactly what.

The hidden anguish of the main characters is so tangible that it seems real and when Kerstin Ekman searches deep into the soul of her creations, to make sure that she finds the small, paining thorn in their chests and pinches it, it hurts all the way through the pages, out in my by then almost-numb fingers and it gives me the shivers. Even though they are have sprung from her imagination, I’m scared to see what she finds when she digs around in their minds and what they will do when she’s done. She has made sure that the roughness of the landscape matches the minds of her villagers, being hunters and woodsmen, with cemented gender roles, and mainly focusing on the hunting and fishing, they are crisp and short-spoken, and their condition makes it hard for them to express their feelings, even if they wanted to after the author’s pinch.

With a poetic language and a story that catches you from the first page, Kerstin Ekman has managed to write a masterpiece in a league of its own.  

Submitted: 15 juni 2012

 
 


 Five Questions 
Kerstin Ekman: ”My work is mine only”

She writes herself into non-existent worlds

Kerstin Ekman: ”My work is mine only”

Kerstin Ekman writes because it comes natural to her:

- Like the way swimming comes natural to a frog.

Her latest novel, ”Grand final i skojarbranschen” (not yet translated to English), was published in Swedish in 2011. Here she answers The Literary Magazine’s five questions about books and writing.

Read more ...

Publications

Blackwater

by Kerstin Ekman
Blackwater has a mixture of crime, love and passion and Ekman's graceful language fills it with parallels to myths, symbols and the development of modern day society.

The Forest of Hours

by Kerstin Ekman
The main character of the book is the troll Skord and we get to see the development of Sweden during 500 years through his eyes.

God’s Mercy

by Kerstin Ekman
Part one in the Wolfskin Trilogy. In the break between winter and spring of 1916, a young midwife arrives to the village of Blackwater in northern Sweden.

Lottery Scratchcards

by Kerstin Ekman
The third and final book in the Wolfskin Trilogy.

The Last String

by Kerstin Ekman
Life in the barren village of Blackwater, northern Sweden, is harsh, but when the war comes, it is also changed forever.

Books of special interest

The Merman

by Carl-Johan Vallgren
A story about the darkness that lives in all humans, even though most of us try to deny it.

Echoes from the Dead

by Johan Theorin
This is the first novel in the author’s planned quartet of books taking place on the Swedish island of Öland.

The Dogs of Riga

by Henning Mankell
The second book in the Kurt Wallander series.

Simon and the Oaks

by Marianne Fredriksson
A beautiful story about sons and their mothers.

New Collected Poems

by Tomas Tranströmer
Tomas Tranströmer is the 2011 Nobel Prize laureate in Literature. This books contains his collected work from his debut in 1954 with "17 Poems" to his most recent publications.

The Red Room

by August Strindberg
Criticizing the moral and hypocrisy in 1870s Stockholm.

Children's books

The Wonderful Adventures of Nils

by Selma Lagerlöf
“The Wonderful Adventures of Nils”, written in 1906 to 1907, came to be when Selma Lagerlöf was asked to write a book that could teach Swedish geography to school children.

Pippi Longstocking

by Astrid Lindgren
Pippi Longstocking lives alone in the big house “Villekulla“. Her father is busy pirating at sea and ruling as king of Kurrekurredutt Isle. But she is not lonely, as she has her friends Tommy and Annika, her horse Little buddy and her monkey Mr. Nilsson.

Bridget and the Moose Brothers

by Pija Lindenbaum
Bridget is all alone. She wants a sibling. A small one who can fit in her doll bed. Or maybe a big brother. Outside her building she meets the moose brothers and invites them to her room, having big plans to become their little sister.

When Owen's Mom Breathed Fire

by Pija Lindenbaum
Owen´s mom is always very busy. Every morning she is in a great hurry to get Owen up and to school and herself to work. But one day she has been turned into a big dragon and no longer knows how to be a mum.

The Diamond Mystery

by Martin Widmark
The first part in the popular series about Jerry and Maya, the children who are running their very own detective agency.

The Literary Magazine lists

Money

by Victoria Benedictsson
“Money” is Benedictsson's first novel, publish...

The Merman

by Carl-Johan Vallgren
Coming from a shattered family, the children Nella and Robert ...

Miss Julie

by August Strindberg
It’s Midsummer night in 1874 at a Count’s estate s...

The Red Room

by August Strindberg
First published in 1879, it received mixed reviews in Sweden, ...

New Collected Poems

by Tomas Tranströmer
Tomas Tranströmer is the 2011 Nobel Prize laureate in Lit...

The Dogs of Riga

by Henning Mankell
It’s the winter of 1991 and a small life raft with two d...

Italian Shoes

by Henning Mankell
On a small, isolated island in the Stockholm archipelago, Fred...

I Die, But the Memory Lives On

by Henning Mankell
A nonfictional fable about a growing tradition in countries in...

The Man from Beijing

by Henning Mankell
On a freezing day in January, a body is found in the snow in t...

The Ice Princess

by Camilla Läckberg
Published in 2002, this is Camilla Läckberg’s debut...

About The Literary Magazine

The Literary Magazine of Swedish books and writers – is a web-based literary magazine that specialises in Swedish literature. The Literary Magazine covers the latest in Swedish literature with articles and reviews.

The Literary Magazine is produced by the lagest Swedish literary magazine, LitteraturMagazinet, and based out of Stockholm, Sweden.

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