In February, I read a book called April Witch, written by Swedish author Majgull Axelsson. I'd been mentioning this book in a couple of videos, and eventually decided to do a book review of it. Part of the reason for that decision is that it's not a well-known book (at least, not in the booktube circles that I am in, though it was well-received in Sweden); if I decide to invest my time in doing a proper book review, I'm always conscious of making sure it adds something to the booktube community. In other words, I prefer not to review a book that dozens of other people have already reviewed, because a fair few of them probably did a better job than I ever could.
The book tells the story of three women who've spent part of their childhoods in the same foster home, and a fourth woman who is the biological daughter of that foster woman. There is Margareta, who was left somewhere as a baby and grew up with Ellen, the foster mother. There is Christina, who was taken away from her mother by child protective services and placed with Ellen. And there is Birgitta, who came to live with Ellen and the other girls when she was quite a bit older already, and has always been different and rebellious. Finally, there is Desirée, Ellen's biological daughter. Desirée was born with a severe physical disability, and was consequently given up by Ellen.
Desirée really is pivotal to the story. She is what's called an "April witch", meaning she has certain magical powers, such as the ability to possess other living creatures. She uses this ability to spy on other people and to complete some actions that really set the plot in motion. A great deal of emphasis throughout the story is placed on the fact that Ellen didn't necessarily want to give Desirée up: apparently that was simply what you were 'supposed to do' in those days. Ellen is made to believe that the child will be better off in a place that can provide all the care she needs, and that there would be no point in forming a bond with her.
The two themes that form the pillars of the story are 'mothers and daughters' and 'sisters'. It's very interesting to see the bond between the three women who all lived with Ellen: are they sisters, or aren't they? One of the first things Christina wonders is whether they should 'pretend to be sisters' forever. Obviously, she isn't actually related to Margareta and Birgitta, but there is definitely a bond there. Even Desirée, who has never even met the other women in person, refers to them as her sisters.
As far as the mother and daughter thing goes, there are some interesting backstories there. It's clear that the women didn't end up in foster care for no reason. Their stories all share certain similarities, but at the same time they are completely unique. There is also an aspect of nature vs. nurture: in spite of coming from similar backgrounds and spending a portion of their 'formative years' in the same home, Christina, Margareta and Birgitta grew up to be completely different people.
Finally, I do want to take a moment to talk about the ending of the book, which, for me, was a bit of a let-down. I've also seen other people express the same feeling in some Goodreads reviews. To me, it felt like the entire story had been building up to this climactic or catharthic moment, which then didn't happen. On the other hand, maybe that is just how I, as a reader, have been conditioned to expect stories to go.
April Witch on...