A journey of discovery though two millennia of Scandinavia's history, culture and society, "told with deep knowledge and an intoxicating passion" (BBC). -- Scandinavians is also a personal investigation, with award-winning author Robert Ferguson as the ideal companion as he explores wide-ranging topics such as the power and mystique of Scandinavian women, from the Valkyries to the Vikings; from Nora and Hedda to Garbo and Bergman. This digressive technique is familiar from the writings of W.G. Sebald, and in Ferguson's hands it is deployed with particular felicity, accessibility, and deftness, richly illuminating our understanding of modern Scandinavia, its society, politics, culture, and temperament.
I must say that I have seldom encountered a book so poorly organized. I fact, I would have to say that it is not organized, at all. There are about 20 chapters about various aspects of Scandinavian life, history and/or culture, with seemingly no structure or connection. It is almost like an anthology, or collection of essays written by different people, except the author makes almost every chapter more about himself than the subject.
I didn’t buy this book to read about the author’s life, his friends, the lives of his friends, or his philosophy, yet that is predominantly what I got. Scattered throughout the book are nuggets of helpful and/or entertaining information, but they are widely scattered.
This is not a very didactic book, following a strict pattern with the aim of guiding the reader like a student on history and culture of Nordic lands. The book is rather like an old friend buying you a beer, or aquavit in this case, and telling you personal stories, literary anecdotes, strange encounters with famous figures from the world of theater and cinema. The writing is fluid, but the author can easily deviate from a topic, only to jump to another anecdote, only to return the original theme some pages later. This is the beauty and curse of it!
One thing is certain: After having read this book, I know more about various aspects of Scandinavian culture, history and literature; and I'm motivated to learn much more. Hence, I consider this book a success, but I'm not sure I can recommend to everyone.