Once in awhile, a novel comes along that leaves you pondering long after you’ve put it down. It’s wisdom implores you to explore further the subtle nuances of meanings within the context of your own life. Astrid and Veronika is just such a book.
The story is set in Sweden, where a young writer, Veronika, has rented a summer home, to work on her novel. She develops an unlikely friendship with a solitary older woman who lives in a lonely house near her in the countryside.
I love the friendship that develops between the two women. During my own life, I have experienced friendships with women that are older than I, and often those are my favorite and most cherished relationships. In the readers guide at the back of the novel, the author relates a story about her own grandmother:
“I first visited her in her home in Anaheim, California. One evening, we cooked together. Grandmother made her famous blueberry pie and I my fish soup. As we stood in her kitchen, she suddenly looked up from her work. ‘It’s a pity we are not the same age, you and I,’ she said. ‘We would be best friends.’ I looked back at her and said, ‘We are.'”
Both the characters in the book have experienced love and loss. And death. Olsson shows us how many people deal with death and lost love through her characters, and in doing so, we see a bit of ourselves. As their friendship grows, they each learn some valuable lessons about life. One of my favorite passages is in the letter Astrid leaves for Veronika at the end of the book:
“Love comes to us with no forewarning, and once given to us it can never be taken away. We must remember that. It can never be lost. Love is not measurable. It cannot be counted in years, minutes or seconds, kilos and grams. It cannot be quantified in any way. Nor can it be compared, one with the other. It simply is. The briefest brush with real love can sustain you for a lifetime. We must always remember that.”
No person can escape being touched by death and loss. Astrid and Veronika shows us that love can overcome anything.
4 1/2 stars (out of 5)
Published in 2005