Astrid & Veronika by Linda Olsson– a Swedish author who lives in New Zealand – is a wonderful story about the unlikely friendship between two different women and how they share life stories and become friends told over a few months.
Veronika is in her early thirties. She rents a house in a small remote Swedish village to complete a book and recover from her recent past. Her nearest neighbor is Astrid, an 80-year-old recluse nicknamed the village witch.
While Veronika has traveled almost her entire life, Astrid has spent most of her life under the same roof. Yet both women are lonely and step by step they become friends.
As trust develops between them, each woman slowly starts sharing her own secrets and sorrows. The narrative focuses on Veronika and Astrid alternatively, thus inviting us to share the women’s feelings and perspectives. Eventually both characters come to terms with their pains and are able to move forward in their own ways.
The rhythm of the novel is slow reflecting the author’s love of poetry but it never becomes tedious. It is also deeply rooted in Swedish folk culture with frequent evocations of the country’s landscapes, flowers, berries as well as food.