Subject Material

Let Me Sing You Gentle Songs

Published: 07.09.2011, Updated: 04.03.2017
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KarekareKarekare BeachLinda Olsson lives and writes in Auckland, New Zealand. She was, however, born in Stockholm where she studied law and pursued a career in banking until she left Sweden in 1986. Since then, she has lived in Kenya, Singapore, Britain and Japan, but has been a permanent resident in New Zealand since 1990. Her novels often have Sweden as well as New Zealand as a backdrop.

Let Me Sing You Gentle Songs is her debut novel (2005). It became an instant success and has been translated into several languages. Although Olsson has Swedish as her mother tongue, the novel was written and published in English. Reviewers have commented on her beautiful, idiosyncratic English something that Olsson finds flattering.

Let Me Sing You Gentle Songs is a story of an unusual and unexpected friendship between two women. Veronika is a writer in her early thirties.
She travels to Sweden to finish the book she is writing. She rents a house in the countryside and gradually befriends Astrid, a reclusive older woman who has lived in the village all her life. We soon understand that Astrid and Veronika both have suffered great losses in their lives.

In the following excerpt, which is Chapter 26 in the novel, Veronika shares with Astrid the tragic details of her journey to New Zealand to reunite with James, the love of her life. "Let me tell you when time ended," she says.



Vocabulary

Make sure you understand these words before you read the text. Use the dictionary in the link collection to look up new words:

  1. inaudible
  2. anticipation
  3. remembrance
  4. imperceptible
  5. dissolve
  6. urge
  7. meander
  8. reminiscent
  9. untainted
  10. inhabited
  11. defiant
  12. insignificance
  13. gauze
  14. shimmering
  15. reread
  16. interweave
  17. squint
  18. abruptly
  19. zigzag
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Literary Analysis

  1. Point out the elements in this chapter which make it clear that we are on a different continent and that Veronika is new to the country?
  2. How is the relationship between Veronika and James depicted?
  3. When we start reading Chapter 26, we soon get the feeling that something terrible is going to happen. Which literary devices are used to create this kind of suspense or feeling of the inevitable? Find examples in the text.
  4. Veronika keeps repeating, ”I could have said.” Why?
  5. Veronika says that she knew. ”I just knew.” What was it that she knew?
  6. ”I was racing, but the world around me moved in slow motion, holding me back” What is conveyed in this sentence? Could this have been expressed differently? Give examples.
  7. Chapter 26 takes place in New Zealand on a Saturday in November. How is setting used in this chapter?
  8. In what way does the writer use repetition as a literary device throughout this chapter. Give examples. Why do you think she does so?
  9. The last sentence of the chapter reads, ”When I was still alive.” What does Veronika mean?
  10. What do you think happened to Veronika after James’ death?

Write

  1. Write an article about Linda Olsson. Take into account the experience of belonging to two countries, i.e. Sweden and New Zealand. How do you think this has influenced her writing? Have a look at her homepage, where she presents herself, and listen to Bokprogrammet, where she is interviewed in Swedish, to get some ideas. 
  2. Linda Olsson is praised for her gentle and beautiful language. Write an article where you give examples of her linguistic choices, and explain how this might influence our reading.

 

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