This second volume (originally published in 1976) of Ekman's famous tetralogy (1974-83) about the coming of industrialism to late 19th-century Sweden focuses on the lives of three variously embattled women. Bakery owner (and drudge) Tora struggles against the imperatives of a male-dominated culture that envisions most females as domestic servants—a fate passively endured by Frida, an overburdened washerwoman, and resisted by young Ingrid, a passionate firebrand who's determined to have a formal education and rise above her imprisoning environment. Ekman's masterly dramatizations of the contrasts between home and hearth and the intimidating wider world beyond them—whose uncertainty is crystallized in the recurring theme of the need for pure drinking water—as well as her precise characterizations and robust humor, make this moving novel (after Witches' Rings
, 1997) an essential component of what begins to look like an extended work of major importance.
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