I read this novel in Danish. It has been written in Swedish originally.
This novel is about the murder of Linnea, a quiet little girl in a quiet little village in the quiet Sweden.
Or is it so ?
Stella and Linnea
Thirty years apart, two girls get killed in circumstances so similar that it is troubling.
The little village get agitated. Some are looking for quick answers while the police investigation is barely starting. Some people hurry to point at the local center’s refugees, for no specific reason other than the fear for the foreigner. Even though some of the refugees were volunteers during the search for the girl in the forest.
It is even Karim, one of the refugees who will discover the body, hidden exactly in the same place as that of Stella, thirty years earlier. And even if he has participated in the search with the heart of a father and a hope to better integrate into the small community, this sad discovery will turn against him.
Mary and Helen
Thirty years ago, Mary and Helen, two girls who had just started adolescence, accused themselves for the murder of Stella.
Marie, extroverted and pretty girl from a problem family. Helen, a fine shy girl from a very neat bourgeois couple.
They were guarding the girl just before her murder. The police jump on the occasion without digging more. But why ? Why this murder? And why did they blame themselves when their guilt is so dubious?
Today, Marie is a Hollywood star on the end. She sleeps with every man around, but does not care for her own daughter. And she takes advantage of the slightest scandal to talk about her. But this new murder brings lights back on her life and on this bloody episode in her past.
Helen is now a shy woman, married almost without having chosen to James, a friend of her father. She hides and hates the lights that turn on her. Her son, Sam, is very introverted, oblivious, subject to the haughty attitude of his father, a career military man who respects only force, order and arms.
But who is really James?
Jessie and Sam
Jessie is the daughter of Marie, the Hollywood star who lets her live without worrying about her and sees her as a work accident, product of a one-night-stand with another film producer.
Her comrades mock her for her weight, her unpretty physique, while being envious of the life she had around the world and her meeting many movie stars. Jessie envy them for their popularity, their normal life, far from the chaos of her Hollywood mother.
Jessie and Sam meet, discover each other and find the teenage love they need. They love each other, hidden from others, at last.
Alas Jessie and Sam’s comrades decide to trouble them a bit, and a little too far: they trap Jessie, make her see, for a few hours, the life she could have had. The life of a normal teenager, made of makeup and discussions on a bed. Jessie then sees that with some effort, a little cosmetics and work on her hair, her unsightly body is no longer a source of shame. She is beautiful. And not only in Sam’s eyes. In her own too.
Then the trap closes: they make her drink at a party, and rape her during a scene where all the boys in the class surround her unconscious body.
Everyone laughs at her weight, but they are all fascinated by her breasts …
This rape triggers Sam and Jessie, who otherwise would have remained hidden, happy to have found themselves …
Sweden opened itself to thousands of refugees from Syria. These people, broken by war and a journey across Europe, are seeking to integrate into a new country, and start a new life. Not easy, a new language to learn, a climate so different, and locals closed like oysters that should be opened with a crowbar.
He saw that the Swedes thought he had fled his country in the hope of a luxury life here. What naivety. How can anyone believe that anyone can give up all he knows about the dream of a golden life in the West? He has seen people ready to do anything to save their lives. But he would like the Swedes to see others as well. Those who had to leave their homes to save their family. Those who wish to really contribute to the country that welcomes them.
English translation of a quote from the book. I do not know what will really be the English version.
It’s only Bill, slightly crazy and enthusiastic, who tries to give them hope. By teaching them to sail.
And precisely, this new murder, will again shatter lives through the small community.
It’s in the worst moments, that Mankind comes out with the worst …
Some, full of hate, will plant evidence of the girl’s murder in the refugee center. Precisely in the Karim’s house, discoverer of the body.
The chief of police, informed by an anonymous call, gets his hands on it, without thinking more. He will recognize it later, and will regret it.
For some other hatfull will set fire to Karim’s house. And his wife, Amina, will end at the hospital. And die.
… or better.
Faced with this new tragedy, Bill, the sailing instructor, will organize a solidarity movement. And the Swedes respond.
In the common house are piled up toys, clothes and food for weeks. And the refugees suddenly discover another side of Sweden.
The investigation goes slowly, but quickly, one understand that to solve today’s murder, Linnea, one must first solve that of the past, Stella.
Who is this witch, who gives the novel its title?
Who is Ellin, this 17th century woman, who knows the secrets of herbs and will be killed with barbaric methods of the inquisition.
Outside the police investigation, what is the subject of the novel? The fear of the unknown, of the one who hides? The shared responsibilities of the one who hides and pulls the strings in the shadows? The role of women in society, as mothers, as witches ? The witch hunt ?
Or is it all this, skilfully mixed and balanced ?
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