Mirror, Mirror

Margareta Bergman, Author, Veronica Ralston, Translator Peter Owen Publishers $33.95 (256p) ISBN 978-0-7206-1046-8
Developing from the confessions of a troubled Swedish expatriate, the second of Bergman's novels to be translated from the Swedish chronicles domestic desperation in 1960s British bohemia. Swedish-born Jenny Didier, French husband Jean-Paul and their four children seem to live a fairy tale in their 19th-century house in the verdant countryside outside Brighton. Mellow Jean-Paul has abandoned the London rat race to work from home, with occasional forays to Dublin. But another pressure, an invisible one, dominates their lives. Powerless to cut the umbilical cord binding her to her parents, Jenny is tormented by their macabre Christian imagination and by her failure as a poet. Her meeting with Peter, who during the war stayed with Jenny's family in Sweden to escape the concentration camps, further underscores her malaise, as does her troubled relationship with her brother Leo. Diary extracts written by Jenny, Jean-Paul and Jenny's mother, Charlotte, expose Jenny's fragile psyche. The story ends well before her recovery, but Jenny has at least embraced the idea that the anxiety she feels is necessary to reclaim the neglected parts of her life, especially her art. The sister of Swedish film director Ingmar Bergman draws on a similar reservoir of images--wild strawberries, the actress struck mute by aphasia and the ""Silence of God""--with a more delicate and muted result. Bergman's prose carefully circles, rather than describes, the unspeakable, resulting in an austere work of art softened by a uniquely modern wisdom. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 09/28/1998
Release date: 08/01/1997
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