A Treacherous Paradise by Henning Mankell

74%

5 Critic Reviews

...a story as magical as a fairy tale and just about as brutal too.
-Kirkus

Synopsis

From the internationally acclaimed author of the Kurt Wallander crime novels, a powerful stand-alone novel set in early-twentieth-century Sweden and Mozambique, whose vividly drawn female protagonist is awoken from her naïveté by her exposure to racism and by her own unexpected inner strengths.

Cold and poverty define Hanna Renström’s childhood in remote northern Sweden, and in 1904, at nineteen, she boards a ship for Australia in hope of a better life.  But none of her hopes—or fears—prepares her for the life she will lead. After two brief marriages both leave her widowed, she finds herself the owner of a bordello in Portuguese East Africa, a world where colonialism and white colonists rule, where she is isolated within white society by her profession and her gender, and, among the bordello’s black prostitutes, by her color. As Hanna’s story unfurls over the next several years in this “treacherous paradise,” she wrestles with a devastating loneliness and with the racism she’s meant to unthinkingly adopt. And as her life becomes increasingly intertwined with the prostitutes’, she moves inexorably toward the moment when she will make a decision that defies all the expectations society has of her and, more important, those she has of herself.

Gripping in its drama, evocative and searing in its portrait of colonial Africa, A Treacherous Paradise is, at its heart, a deeply moving story of a woman who manages to wrench wisdom, empathy, and grace from the most unforgiving circumstances.
 

About Henning Mankell

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Bestselling author Henning Mankell has received numerous awards, including the Crime Writers' Association's Macallan Gold Dagger and the German Tolerance Prize. His Kurt Wallander mysteries are global bestsellers and have been adapted into the PBS Masterpiece Mystery! series Wallander, starring Kenneth Branagh. He divides his time between Sweden and Maputo, Mozambique. Ebba Segerberg has translated One Step Behind, Firewall, and Before the Frost by Henning Mankell (all available from The New Press) and Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist. She lives in St. Louis, Missouri.
 
Published July 9, 2013 by Vintage. 386 pages
Genres: History, Education & Reference, Literature & Fiction. Fiction
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Critic reviews for A Treacherous Paradise
All: 5 | Positive: 4 | Negative: 1

NY Times

Above average
Reviewed by William Boyd on Jul 19 2013

Occasionally there’s a slip into colloquial anachronism (did Swedish people say “O.K.” in 1905?), and there are instances of other lapses and clichés...

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Guardian

Above average
Reviewed by James Smart on Jul 11 2014

Hanna's decency is undermined by the society she finds herself in; when she embarks on a personal crusade, the town closes ranks. Mankell's writing can be drab but he tells a good story, and this is a grimly believable picture of how colonialism denigrates both servant and master.

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Publishers Weekly

Good
on Jun 03 2013

Hanna is a curious mix of helplessness and fortitude, and her story, like the story of Africa itself, is tragically sad.

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Kirkus

Good
on Jun 23 2013

...a story as magical as a fairy tale and just about as brutal too.

Read Full Review of A Treacherous Paradise | See more reviews from Kirkus

NY Journal of Books

Good
Reviewed by Viv Young on Jul 08 2013

Mr. Mankell’s writing is beautifully understated and, as already illustrated by his Kurt Wallander series of books, is sure to lend itself to a visual interpretation.

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Reader Rating for A Treacherous Paradise
70%

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