Scandinavians: In Search of the Soul of the North

by Robert Ferguson

Hardcover, 2017




The Overlook Press (2017), Edition: 1, 480 pages


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.

User reviews

LibraryThing member santhony
I picked up this book at Barnes and Noble after browsing for about 15 minutes. The subject looked intriguing, as I love history, am curious about Scandinavia and have very little background on the subject. After reading the entire book, I am still curious and still have very little background.

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.
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LibraryThing member EmreSevinc
I really liked this very personal account of Norway, Sweden, and Denmark written by an "outsider" who maybe shouldn't be considered an outsider after anymore, having spent more than 30 years in Norway, and became so much involved with Scandinavian literature and history.

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.
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