In a free-wheeling love letter to the essence of Scandinavia, Ferguson (Life Lessons from Kierkegaard) takes readers on a leisurely jaunt through the collective, interconnected histories of Norway, Denmark, and Sweden. This is not a dry, exclusively historical narrative; rather, it is part oral history and part a narrative of personal experience. The U.K.-born Ferguson interweaves tales from more than 30 years of living in Norway and professions of his passion for Scandinavia with accounts of prominent historical episodes and interviews he has conducted. This “isn’t, strictly speaking, a history so much as a journey, a discursive and digressive stroll through the last thousand years of Scandinavian culture in search of the soul of the north,” he explains. Whether he’s waxing poetic about the works and impact of playwright Henrik Ibsen, examining how differently each Scandinavian country acted and reacted during WWII, or contemplating the mystique and strength of Scandinavia’s women, Ferguson combines the factual and the intimate. This characteristic of the book keeps things from becoming too dry, though it also results in a work that is sprawling and overly broad. It’s as if in searching for the soul of the North, Ferguson’s writing lost its way. Passionate yet prone to distraction, Ferguson delivers an idiosyncratic look at Scandinavia.
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