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The Historians: A thrilling novel of…

The Historians: A thrilling novel of conspiracy and intrigue during World… (utgåvan 2021)

av Cecilia Ekback (Författare)

MedlemmarRecensionerPopularitetGenomsnittligt betygOmnämnanden
965230,180 (3.68)9
Titel:The Historians: A thrilling novel of conspiracy and intrigue during World War II
Författare:Cecilia Ekback (Författare)
Info:Harper Perennial (2021), 464 pages
Samlingar:Ditt bibliotek


The Historians av Cecilia Ekback


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Visar 5 av 5
Cecilia Ekback's short bio on the back cover of this book says that she grew up in a small town in northern Sweden but now lives in Canmore Alberta. And yet again Canada has welcomed a great new writer to its shores. We have been so enriched with many immigrants to our land but I personally appreciate those who add to our literary life.

This novel is set in Sweden during World War II. Sweden remained neutral in the war but did business with the Germans, primarily sending iron from its mines to Germany in return for getting much needed goods and food from them. One of the major mines is located in northern Sweden with many of the indigenous Sami people working in the mine. But something else besides mining is going on in the mountainous area and many Sami have disappeared. A young woman, Laura Dahlgren, who works with the committee negotiating with the Germans gets drawn into this mystery when she receives a call from a friend of her best friend, Britta Hallberg, telling her that Britta is missing. Laura and Britta and a few other history students at Uppsala University became close when the took on a special project at the behest of their history professor. When Laura goes back to Uppsala to investigate Britta's disappearance she discovers her mutilated body in the room in the Historical Society building where the group used to meet. Thinking back to their last meeting Laura realizes that Britta was worried about something and Laura wishes she had pressed her about it. In Stockholm, Jens Regnall, an official in the Foreign Affairs minister's office, receives an unsolicited thesis. It was sent to him by Britta, who he had met briefly when he talked at one of their special evening meetings. However, he doesn't remember her and he throws the thesis out, unread except for looking at the chapter headings. Later, when he hears about her death he realizes it may be important but it is too late to retrieve the document. Together Laura and Jens start investigating Britta's death. Soon after Laura's apartment is bombed and Jens is threatened. They bring in the other members of the small university group. Everyone goes back to Uppsala and there they find evidence of a horrific eugenics experiment but before they can publicize it another person is killed and the evidence is taken. How can they bring this project to a stop when they have no evidence?

This was a gripping read and shows the war from a different perspective than anything else I have read. ( )
  gypsysmom | Nov 25, 2021 |
Although "The Historians" is a historical fiction novel, it is also a mystery to be solved. We begin with Laura, assistant to the diplomatic negotiator for Sweden. Just three years ago Laura was a college student with a tight-knit group of friends who she no longer is in contact with since their falling out shortly before school ended. Even though estranged Laura still considers the group her best of friends. When one of the group is found by Laura, murdered, and in such a way that suspicion is turned toward her and her group of friends, she can not help but become involved with the investigation. But the more Laura digs, the more she finds herself in danger and doors closing in her face. A young man, Jens, the secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, finds himself drawn into the investigation when he finds a thesis, written by the murdered girl, left mysteriously on his desk.
This book raised questions I have never considered about the countries that remained neutral during WWII. Why they were neutral and at what cost did that neutrality come?
I found this an interesting novel with a different slant to it than what is usually written about the war. It was gripping in that it presents angles and theories about the war that I have not encountered before.
Though the storyline is interesting and different I am sorry to have to say that I found it somewhat of a slow read. I like the different view taken but I found the characters were lacking. I never found that "connection" to any of the characters, and I only had a sense of aloofness on the part of the main character Laura.
I would still recommend to historical fiction fans, because the plot is intriguing and it is worth the time to read, I just cannot give 5 stars, therefore I will give 4 and recommend.
This book was a personal choice and not an advanced reader copy, this review is simply my opinion of the novel ( )
  lori6868 | Sep 26, 2021 |
There's a lot of WWII-focused historical fiction out there and I've read more than my share of it, but this was the first novel I encountered set in Sweden, a country both neutral and yet embroiled in the conflict. This novel also presents a more complicated tale of the war and the role of other European countries - Sweden actively negotiates with Nazi Germany and pursues its own form of twisted racial practices. The plot is centered around a murder mystery, one which causes an unraveling of government policy and foreign negotiations all during a pivotal year of the war. Overall, this novel is gritty, morally complicated, and very different from so much of the fiction set in this era - and I liked it for all of those reasons. ( )
  wagner.sarah35 | Mar 18, 2021 |
My husband and I had planned a trip to Scandinavia for the fall of 2020, a trip that never happened because of Covid-19, so the next best thing is reading a book set there. Having enjoyed Cecilia Ekbäck’s previous novels (Wolf Winter and The Midnight Sun), I looked forward to this one. The Historians is not the best of the three, but it is an entertaining read.

The novel is set in Sweden in 1943 when the country’s neutrality in the war is under pressure. The story is narrated from three perspectives. Laura, a young civil servant assisting a team overseeing trade negotiations with Nazi Germany, discovers the body of Britta, her best friend from university. Britta had been tortured before being murdered. Laura sets out to find Britta’s killer. Meanwhile, Jens, the secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, receives Britta’s PhD thesis but he dismisses it since there is no explanatory letter. He is pre-occupied with concerns that his boss is secretly negotiating with the German Reich. At the same time, in Lapland in northernmost Sweden, Taneli, a young Sami boy, is searching for his sister, one of several Sami who have mysteriously disappeared. These three narratives gradually converge with the discovery of secrets which threaten the fabric of the entire country.

My knowledge about Scandinavia during World War II was scant so the preface at the beginning (“The Nordic Countries during World War II”) was very useful. It provides a context for the events in the novel. At the end of the book, the Author’s Note and Historical Background gives more information and explains which events are based on historical events and which characters are based on real individuals. It is obvious that the author did considerable research. At the beginning, there is also an extensive list of characters. The length of that list had me concerned but I found that it was not especially difficult to keep track of who is who.

The novel starts slowly but tension does gradually build. The characters face increasing danger, especially after more deaths occur and more people disappear. More than one person is keeping secrets and telling lies so there are many suspects. Distrust seeps into relationships as it becomes difficult to determine who can be trusted. Red herrings abound. Just as one story reaches a crucial stage, the focus changes to another plot line so there are a number of cliffhangers. I did guess the identity of one of the villains but was surprised at the identity of another one.

I enjoyed learning more about Sami culture. The racial bias against them has parallels to Canada’s treatment of its Indigenous peoples: “authorities suppressed the Sami culture, dismissing it as backward. . . . the Sami were deemed racially ‘less’ than the rest of the population and not capable of managing their own destiny. . . . They were not allowed to hunt and fish where their ancestors had always lived.”

The one thing that is missing is the development of relationships, especially parent-child relationships. One father calls his son “merciless” and another dismisses his daughter as “a tart”? Another father is disgusted by his daughter’s behaviour? There are backstories there that need to be developed; without them, actions are not totally credible and convincing.

Blackåsen Mountain, a brooding and menacing presence, appears in all of Ekbäck’s novels; each of the books visits the mountain in a different time period (Wolf Winter: 1717; The Midnight Sun: 1856; and The Historians: 1943). Though Blackåsen Mountain is not a real place, it is apparently based on places from Ekbäck’s childhood. Perhaps I will eventually be able to visit northern Sweden; in the meantime, The Historians provided a vicarious visit which I really enjoyed.

Note: Please check out my reader's blog (https://schatjesshelves.blogspot.com/) and follow me on Twitter (@DCYakabuski). ( )
  Schatje | Feb 2, 2021 |
When I picked up this novel, I quickly realized it wasn’t your standard World War II novel. Taking place in Sweden, a country walking a tightrope with the Germans and fearful of having the Soviets as neighbors, I knew I would find it interesting. When a woman working on her master’s thesis is brutally murdered, those trying to figure out what happened find a secret Swedish program promoting Scandinavian racial purity. Characters including the Sami people who are most in danger from this program. While the loose ends were not tied up by the end of the book, what I learned about Sami culture and Swedish history make up for it. ( )
  brangwinn | Jan 12, 2021 |
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