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‘We need the literature of other countries to expand our
horizons and stimulate our ideas. Without it, we are not only
diminished, we are starved’
(The Times, Magnus Linklater 29/06/05)
A Journey to England
by Edith Unnerstad
Age Range: 9-11
A Journey to England is set in the nineteenth century and takes place in Sweden and Victorian England. Kari is a widow and a hair worker from Dalecarlia, a region of Sweden which is famous for the production of ornaments and trinkets woven from hair. Each year groups of women from the villages travel around the region and throughout Europe selling their creations, often spending weeks and months away from home.
Kari and her two children – fourteen-year-old Ambrosious (called Brosus) and nearly thirteen-year-old Margita, live with her parents. On one of her many trips to sell her wares Kari disappears. Rumours abound that she has deserted her children. Brosus and Margita are threatened with going to live with relations who are not always very nice to them. The children do not believe that their mother has abandoned them and, hating the prospect of being taken away, they decide to go in search of her.
The siblings soon discover that Kari has gone to England. With the approval and some financial help from their grandparents they travel to Gothenburg, London and finally the Cotswolds. After travelling through various villages and making enquiries they learn that a woman with a black dog speaking in a foreign language has been seen in the area. Their final destination brings them to the town of Malvern where they even meet the famous Swedish opera singer Jenny Lind.
Both children believe that the woman described to them is their mother but these vague sightings are the only clue they have to go on. If it is their mother why have they heard nothing from her and if it is not, will the children ever find her?
This is an incredibly powerful novel by Swedish author Edith Unnerstad. She has created a convincing and engaging story set in the 19th century. The sheer determination of Brosus and Margita to find their mother and their perseverance in their search despite all the obstacles and adversities they encounter is remarkable. As the novel is not divided into chapters, the reader is encouraged to follow the development of the story which dramatically unfolds by the turning of each page. The English text reads fluently and effortlessly and the black and white ink drawings by Ulla Sundin-Wickman are atmospheric, delicate and exquisitely compliment the story and the historical time in which is set.