A World Gone Mad: The Diaries of Astrid Lindgren 1939-45 by Astrid Lindgren
|A World Gone Mad: The Diaries of Astrid Lindgren 1939-45 by Astrid Lindgren|
|Reviewer: Ruth Ng|
|Summary: Not enough Pippi! But a fascinating read in other ways.|
|Buy? yes||Borrow? yes|
|Pages: 320||Date: October 2016|
|Publisher: Pushkin Press|
|External links: Author's website|
Before she became a world famous author, Astrid Lindgren worked as a secretary, and as a wife and mother. She kept a diary, and throughout the war maintained her own personal record of world events, commenting on political situations as well as her own day to day activities and struggles. She writes in a fresh and candid manner, and her observations are both personal and astute.
I hadn't really known much about the Scandinavian aspect to World War Two, and so it was interesting to me to read of the movements and developments, with the Russians and the Germans. Sweden's role in the war was fascinating and you can sense Lindgren's frustrations and worries (and relief) about their lack of involvement, and the odd negotiations with German troops over access through the country. It is interesting to read of her experience of rationing, knowing how much harder it was for many other people in Europe, and you can clearly see her gratitude for how easy her family has it compared to many others. There were moments during the diaries when I gasped at the excess of what they had to eat, thinking back over stories of what my grandparents endured and struggled with for food during the war. The documentation of her war time life is detailed and intriguing, from details of what was served for a Christmas meal to lists of what her children received for birthdays and Christmas.
Whilst writing her diaries she maintained them as a scrapbook, pasting in articles, commentary and letters about the war. Disappointingly, none of this are included in the book, so although we can see Lindgren's comments on various events and situations, we don't have the original pieces to refer to. I felt this removed some of the flavour that her diaries must have had, and it's a shame that the pieces couldn't be reproduced so we could read them as we read her commentary and thoughts about them.
There were vague suggestions throughout the latter half of the book of marital issues for Astrid. Frustratingly she clouds everything in hints and hidden sorrows and I felt, at times, that I'd rather she'd written nothing at all than not write about what was actually happening! It was just a sense of feeling nosy about what on earth was going on, but I felt that her diaries would have been more interesting, and more human, had she filled them out a little more. The largest omission for me, however, was any discussion of her writing of Pippi Longstocking. The mentions of Pippi are so very brief and entirely unsatisfying! I wanted to know about what prompted her to write about this anarchic little girl. The book blurb says about how Pippi came from the bedtime stories Astrid invented for her daughter, but within the diaries themsevles she never really writes about this, or discusses the development of Pippi into a novel. It felt, rather, that she went from her diary writing to suddenly being a successful children's writer, and the lack of discussion on this was disappointing.
Overall, I would suggest that if you're looking for a book about the creator of Pippi Longstocking then this isn't the one to read, but if you're interested generally in reading her viewpoint through the war, and a good wartime diary, then you'll find this an educational and engaging read.
Further reading suggestion: If you're reading this review and thinking to yourself 'Pippi who?' then rush yourself to a bookshop to read Pippi Longstocking. If you're interested in this period of history you might also wish to look at Our Longest Days: A People's History of the Second World War by Sandra Koa Wing and The True German: The Diary of a World War II Military Judge by Werner Otto Muller-Hill and Benjamin Carter Hett
You can read more book reviews or buy A World Gone Mad: The Diaries of Astrid Lindgren 1939-45 by Astrid Lindgren at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy A World Gone Mad: The Diaries of Astrid Lindgren 1939-45 by Astrid Lindgren at Amazon.com.
Like to comment on this review?
Just send us an email and we'll put the best up on the site.