Swede Hollow | Ola Larsmo
Swede Hollow is a real place in St Paul, MN. For decades in the late 19th to mid-20th century, it was also a poor neighborhood housing waves of immigrants--first Swedes, then Irish, Italian, Polish, and Mexican. Now it is a park.
For this novel Larsmo meticulously researched life in the Hollow for MN's Swedish immigrants in particular. The details--locations, businesses, union activities, and so on--are all accurate. Only the main characters are fictional--a few of the minor characters were real people. Also included are a few newspaper articles that are from the St Paul paper.
For his story, Larsmo focuses on a family of 5. We see their journey, their struggle in New York, and then their settling into the Hollow with people who had been on the same ship. We see the children grow, the neighbors, the jobs, and how life moves on. Nothing shocking here, it's all very believable. I have read a lot of immigration novels over the last 30 years, and this one stands out in its historically accurate setting--and given that it is from the University of Minnesota Press, this is not all that surprising. This would also make a good middle grade/high school read, with a shotgun wedding but no graphic anything, no cursing, some drunks but definitely no glorification of alcohol.
In a change from most current immigration fiction, this was actually written in Swedish, with a 2016 publication date--100 years after the novel takes place. Larsmo is an award-winning Swedish journalist/academic who spent some time in Minnesota and that was when much of his research was done. It was written in Swedish and translated by Tiina Nunnally, who also did the fabulous recent translation of Kristin Lavransdatter.
Thanks to NetGalley and the U of Minnesota Press for providing me with this Galley.
Pub date: October 1
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