Simon and the Oaks ePUB
by Marianne Fredriksson
Bad Mother No. 1 - Karin's mother had so many children before she (Karin) was born so she was an unwanted child and her mother hated her. Her father loved her, but she was born when her father was old already and he died when she was still very young.
Bad Mother No. 2 - Inga was taking care of her old, sickly parents in a house by the lake somewhere in Sweden (where all these stories took place, starting sometime the second world war). In a stream nearby she met a handsome fiddler, a German Jew who plays his violin beautifully. They couldn't understand each other's language but they knew body language so they made love. Several times, in a series of days. Near the stream. Then he disappeared. He later wrote Inga in German, a letter he knew she wouldn't understand, so it was unread but Inga kept it. She discovered she's pregant, kept it secret from her parents, left their house for a while feigning illness and gave birth. She hated the child (a boy) and gave him to her cousin Erik (who at that time was already married to Karin but they were childless) when he (the child) was just three days old.
Bad Mother No. 3 - Erik's mother was a selfish one and wanted Erik for herself alone (though not in a sexual way). She openly expressed her dislike for Karin but the latter stood up to her. Erik left his mother to live with Karin after they got married.
Bad Mother No. 4 - Inga's unwanted child was named Simon. He looked like a Jew. Karin knew of the fiddler's letter to Inga and she could have had it translated, traced his whereabouts, so Simon's existence could have at least been made known to his real father. Karin, however, selftishly wanted to keep Simon. He grew up handsome, intelligent, musically-inclined but with so many hang-ups and weird dreams and visons. He had a love-hate feeling towards Karin which confused him a lot. He would sometimes go to the forest and talk to the oak trees (thus, this novel is known in the 1001 Books list as "Simon and the Oaks"—maybe the English translation of its original Swedish title: "Simon och ekarma.").
Bad Mother No. 5 - Close to the couple were father and son Ruben and Isak. They were Jewish. When the Nazis were rampaging in Europe (with threats to invade Sweden) Erik and Karin took Isak with them for a while and the latter became like a son to them too. Isak's mother, by that time, was already in a mental institution because she was a mean bitch who had gone insane. Apparently, she (and her equally bad father) had abused Isak when he was still a child and when they were still living in Germany. Several times, while growing up, Isak was on the verge of going insane himself probably because of the genes he inherited from his crazy mother, or his unhappy childhood, or the Nazis, or his experiences with anti-semitic Swedes, or a combination of all these.
Bad Mother No. 6 - When Simon was around 20 he had a girlfriend named Klara, a tall, intelligent medical student with a vicious tongue. Klara's mother abandoned her when she was still young and ran away with another man. She (Klara) had a cynical view about "good mothers" and had an ugly exchange of words with Karin when Simon first brought her home as his fiancee.
Bad Mother No. 7 - Mona, who became Isak's wife, described her paternal grandmother as "an absolute devil" and somewhat blames her for her father turning up in a bad way.
All these bad mothers were the walls and pillars of the novel. There were several dramatic moments of sons, daughters and mothers reconciling with their past and finallly enjoying the peace there is in forgiveness. I can imagine readers who have/had similar "bad mothers" shedding a tear or two while reading this book, but I was spared from that, and couldn't give this 5 stars either, because I do not have a bad mother. Ask Simon, one of my two brothers who looks after my mother in California.
Book tags: simon and the oaks epub, download, epub, marianne fredriksson
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