THE RED MARTEN by Peter Nisser


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This is a serious historical novel which is set in Sweden at the time when Christianity was still fighting to hold its own against pagan beliefs and earlier superstitions emerging in times of emergency. It follows three generations of the Weasel (red marten) or Wessel family. The first Wessel returns from war with a foreign wife who, beaten as a witch, gives birth to a son, Jon, and dies. The father, a hard worker and a crafty dealer in land, prospers and Jon, with his father's traits, succeeds even more. But his son, Simon, a restless fellow, becomes involved with an absent soldier's wife before he marries a strange French woman and in desperation leaves for the war with the Russians and almost certain death. A skimpy summary does not do justice to the especially interesting parts of the book -- the pictures of life at that time, of war that was slaughter and of a belief in the supernatural that pervaded the lives of the people even though most would have denied it. This is perhaps the fault of the book that the people and what happens to them is not of pressing importance to the reader and the background, in spite of its excellence, is not enough to carry the whole thing.

ISBN: 116613489X
Publisher: Knopf