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Literature / The Anderssons

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The Anderssons by Solveig Olsson-Hultgren (born in 1958) is a Swedish Young Adult Literature series, where we follow the girls within one family from 1899 and 1999. In the very beginning, the family is still very poor and has to work hard to keep their homestead. But it turns out that the 20th century is a time full of changes, and it becomes possible for the Andersson girls to follow their dreams and find their own kind of happiness. The whole series is made up by ten different installments, where we can follow nine different protagonists.

1: "Siden, sammet, trasa, lump" ("Silk, velvet, tatters, rags"), first published in 2002, takes place during the summer of 1899. It follows the story of eleven-year-old Elin Andersson, who has to run away over the summer, so she can earn money and help her parents keep their new homestead...

2: "Arbetets döttrar" ("Daughters of the labor"), first published in 2003, takes place in 1903 and 1904. Elin is now fifteen years old and works hard at a paper mill. But she also has to deal with being torn between two different suitors, becoming the only female member of the local worker's union and dreaming about becoming an artist...

3: "Drömmar av glas" ("Dreams of glass"), first published in 2004, takes places in 1917. Rebecka Andersson is Elin's eleven-year-old daughter, who has to leave the city life of Stockholm to live with her grandparents in the countryside. It is hard for her to adjust, and she also becomes bullied in her new school. But she also learns to deal with the new situation and dream of a different future...

4: "Nya tider" ("New times"), first published in 2005, takes place in 1920 and 1921. Rebecka is now fifteen years old and has moved into the town of Växjö, where she now shares an apartment with her aunt Ida Sofia, to work in a shoe store until she can start at the teacher's seminar. But things don't turn as easy as she thought they would, and it turns out that her mother and her aunts have their share of problems too...

5: "Det fjärde rummet" ("The fourth room"), first published in 2006, takes place in 1932. Anna Andersson is fourteen years old and dreams about becoming an architect. But instead, she has to haunt jobs to support herself, her sick mother and her little sister. It is only through the help from her aunts and her cousin Rebecka, that she can start hoping for a better future...

6: "Skärvor av kristall" ("Shards of crystal"), first published in 2007, takes place in 1938 and 1939. Louise Stjärnstedt is fifteen years old when her mother (Mandi) dies. And that is the start of a huge journey for her. She now starts to realize that her father has been abusive towards her mother, at the same time as she develops feelings for a Jewish boy...

7: "Roller och ridåer" ("Roles and curtains"), first published in 2008, takes place in 1948. Judith Ek is sixteen years old and has run away from her foster parents to find her biological mother: Elin Andersson. Elin is very surprised to see Judith, but agrees to take care of her over the summer. And that is beginning of a big journey for them both...

8: "Spränga gränser" ("Bursting boarders"), first published in 2009, takes place in 1956. Cecilia Berglund is Rebecka's fifteen-year-old daughter, who does her best to become the first girl in the family to get a High School diploma. But she also starts a rock'n'roll band for girls and helps her dyslexic brother to get his poems published...

9: "Revolternas år" ("The year of revolts"), first published in 2011, takes place in 1968. Åsa and Saga live a rather uneventful life on their father's farm, until the day when their mother is hit by a car and has to stay the hospital. Åsa dreams of becoming a designer and hates doing all her new chores at the farm. Saga has set her mind on finding the man, who injured her mother.

10: "Fyra systrar" ("Four Sisters"), first published in 2012, takes place in 1975. Nina is Louise's sixteen-year-old daughter, who has been sent away to her cousin Judith to get away from the bad influences in the city of Malmö. The last few chapters take place in 1999, where we can see how the women and girls in the family prepare themselves for a new millennium...

Time Periods:

  • The Gay '90s: "Siden, sammet, trasa, lump" takes place in 1899. It shows the time period mostly from a working class perspective, where even the children have to help out with making money for the family.
  • The Edwardian Era: "Arbetets döttrar" takes place in 1903 and 1904. Yet again, it shows the time period mostly from the perspective of the working class and their dreams of more rights and better lives.
  • World War I: "Drömmar av glas" takes place in 1917. Sweden is mostly spared from the horrors of the war, but food is very scarce in the cities and the towns, and Rebecka's only uncle has been conscripted into the army.
  • The Roaring '20s: "Nya tider" takes place in 1920 and 1921. A brand new fashion has started to emerge (Greta and Rebecka even cut their hair short!), and now the first election, where women have the right vote, is coming up in the fall. Jazz is the new popular music for young people.
  • The Great Depression: "Det fjärde rummet" takes place in 1932. Anna has to suffer greatly from the aftermath of the depression, as girls now have a hard time finding jobs. And yet, she has to be the bread-winner of her family.
  • World War II: "Skärvor av kristall" takes place in 1938 and 1939. The new great war hasn't started quite yet, but many people know that it's just around the corner. Louise's boyfriend is a Jewish refugee from Germany.
  • The '40s: "Roller och ridåer" takes place in 1949. Judith has become obsessed with becoming a movie star (she has to settle for being a more modest actress), and she and her cousin Elisabet talk about "The New Look".
  • The '50s: "Spränga gränser" takes place in 1956. Rock'n'roll, television, jeans and a lot of other things are new for the teenagers of this generation. We also get references to the Hollywood stars of the time and the Civil Rights Movement.
  • The '60s: "Revolternas år" takes place in 1968. The Vietnam War, hippies and a new psychedelic fashion all appear in this book. We also get references to the big building project in Sweden, where many old houses were demolished to big new "modern" ones.
  • The '70s: "Fyra systrar" takes place in 1975. Nina has to live in a commune, which many people chose to do in Sweden during this decade. There are plenty of references to popular artists and other trends of the time.
  • The '80s: This decade only gets a few brief references towards the end of "Fyra systrar". Saga is now ashamed of the colorful fashion of that time. But she also talks about Dallas being the hugest thing on TV and prime minister Olof Palme being murdered.
  • The '90s: The last few chapters of "Fyra systrar" takes place in 1999, and there is a huge anticipation for the new millennium. The Internet has arrived, and so have the cellular phones. We also get some references to things like Spice Girls.


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    Tropes A to L 
  • A World Half Full: This series has a good balance between optimism and realism. The message is basically "Things might look hard now. But if you work hard and don't give up, your dreams will come true".
  • All of the Other Reindeer: Rebecka is bullied in her new school in rural Småland. It is mostly because she's a City Mouse from Stockholm, and her parents never were married (which was more acceptable in the cities, but a big blight on your reputation in smaller communities)... However, the other kids will also tease her for things like having red hair and freckles, for having to wear her grandmother's shoes, and anything else that they can come up with. And the worst thing is that her teacher is mean too, so she won't do anything to stop it.
  • Alpha Bitch:
    • Karin and Ragnhild lead the bullying against Rebecka in "Drömmar av glas". Both of them come from prestigious local families (Karin's father is a merchant; Ragnhild's father is a priest), which makes it easy for them to taunt a kid from a less fortunate background.
    • Monica is the school nemesis to Rebecka's daughter Cecilia in "Spränga gränser". Her father is rich and clearly spoils her rotten, which makes her feel that she has the right to taunt Cecilia for having working class parents.
  • Arcadia: As much as this series applauds progress in most other areas, it is remarkably protective of the increasingly marginalized countryside. Elin is determined to live on the family homestead until she dies, and Elisabeth and Saga also live on the countryside. The commune "Fyra systrar" is located on the countryside too and gives several women (including members of the Andersson family, like Judith and Maria and Nina and Louise) a place to live in the 1970s. Of course, some members of the Andersson family have other interests and prefer to live in the nearby town of Växjö. Anna, Cecilia and Åsa even spend most of their lives abroad. But still, Saga writes a series of books about the family. And that reminds them of where their origins are.
  • Betty and Veronica: In "Arbetets döttrar", Elin is very torn between her two boyfriends: Gusten, a nice guy from her home village, and Johannes, her more exciting co-worker from the paper mill. But in the end, she breaks up with both of them. However, she is reunited with Gusten years later.
  • Birth-Death Juxtaposition:
    • Rebecka reveals to her other aunts that she's pregnant the day after Mandi's funeral. And later on in the same book, Hannes (Rebecka's son) is born at the same time as his great-grandmother Sofia Margareta is dying from cancer (she seems to live on for a few months after Hannes is born, but her dying is mentioned in the same epilogue as his birth).
    • Decades later, Elin dies on the same day as her great-grand-niece and namesake Elin is born.
  • Brainy Brunette: Ida Sofia is the Book Worm out of the four original Andersson sisters. And yep, she also is a brunette.
  • Changing of the Guard: When the series starts out, Elin is clearly the protagonist. But after two installments, that role is given to her daughter Rebecka instead. And then, it is moved around between different girls in their family.
  • Childhood Friend Romance:
    • Elin and Gusten meet as pre-teens, end up dating each other as teenagers, breaking up, but re-uniting decades later and becoming engaged (but not married for some reason).
    • Rebecka and Samuel has a similar but less complicated story: they meet as pre-teens, and end up getting married and having two children. What makes it odd though is that Rebecka is Elin's daughter and Samuel is Gusten's son. So technically, they were almost made step-siblings years after they got married and after their children were born!
  • Chummy Commies:
    • Elin is a Communist and mostly portrayed in a positive light. Notably, she is, despite her political leanings, devastated by how the situation turned out in Hungary in 1956.
    • Robert Karlsson, one of Elin's best friends, is a more complicated case. Often, he is portrayed as a fanatic in his Communist beliefs. But he's a genuinely good-hearted man most of the time, and not even he likes Stalin.
  • City Mouse:
    • Rebecka grew up in the city of Stockholm, but has to move in with her grandparents in rural Småland. Of course, she needs a while to adapt. Ironically, her mother Elin had been a Country Mouse in Stockholm.
    • Like her older sister Rebecka, Judith grew up in Stockholm and has to adapt to a more rural environment.
    • Nina lived a few years in the city of Malmö, where she joined a gang of juvenile delinquents. Her mother has to send her away to Judith's commune in Småland. She needs a while to adapt.
  • Commune: Nina in "Fyra systrar" is sent away to her mother's cousin Judith's commune.
  • Conversational Troping: Fiery Redhead is conversed apropos Cecilia in "Spränga gränser". One of her friends excuses Cecilia's fiery attitude with the fact that she's a redhead.
  • Cool Old Lady:
    • Elin becomes a huge inspiration for her grand-niece Saga. She's also there to help and support Nina, another grand-niece. And she's tough enough to still live at her homestead until she's 100 years old.
    • Ida Sofia is this to her grand-niece Cecilia, who will come and visit her and borrow books from her.
  • Cool Teacher: Elin is very fond of her old school teacher, Mr Stendahl. He is even able to help her with getting a place at the Art Academy in Stockholm. And later on, he will become her daughter Rebecka's teacher as well.
  • Country Mouse: Elin lived in the city of Stockholm for many years, but she only was glad to return to rural Småland. She lived on her homestead until she was 100 years old.
  • Darker and Edgier: All of the installments touch some social injustices and other tougher issues. Nevertheless though, "Skärvor av kristall" arguably takes the cake with its portrayal of domestic abuse and suicide.
  • Dirty Old Man: Anna in "Det fjärde rummet" (who is fourteen years old) is assaulted by a married man, who only will let her go when she threatens to tell his wife.
  • Domestic Abuse: Mandi Andersson ends up in an abusive marriage with Rutger Stjärnstedt, which she can only escape by signing herself into a mental asylum (and later on, she decides to commit suicide). And when her daughter Louise gets a Jewish boyfriend, she too is abused by Rutger.
  • Everyone Loves Blondes: Greta, Elisabet and Åsa are three straight generations of attractive blonde girls.
  • Fiery Redhead:
    • Rebecka is never quite as fiery as many other redheads in literature. But she can have her moments. In "Drömmar av glas", she attacks her bullies when she feels that enough is enough. And in "Nya Tider", she gives a suitor who assaulted her an angry "Reason You Suck" Speech and immediately breaks up with him.
    • This trope is discussed apropos Cecilia in "Spränga gränser". One of her friends excuses Cecilia's fiery attitude with the fact that she's a redhead.
  • Four-Girl Ensemble: This series follows this trope with the four original Andersson sisters. Elin is the most "mannish" one, who used to have a tough job at a paper mill. Mandi is the sweet and naive one, who ends up in a bad marriage. Ida Sofia is The Smart Gal and the Book Worm. Greta is the sexy one, who works within fashion.
  • Four-Temperament Ensemble: You can see the four original Andersson sisters as this: Elin is the Choleric, Mandi is the Phlegmatic, Ida Sofia is the Melancholic and Greta is the Sanguine.
  • Hair-Contrast Duo: Ida Sofia is a cynical, brooding and introverted brunette, while Greta is a cheerful, impulsive and extroverted blonde.
  • Informed Judaism: Nina is Jewish, but it hardly gets mentioned except for when she remembers being teased for her "Jewish nose".
  • Lady Drunk: Greta starts drinking in "Det fjärde rummet" after yet another man has jilted her.

    Tropes M to T 
  • Maiden Aunt: Ida Sofia is the prim and proper straight-laced aunt/great-aunt, who has no interest in men and no kids. She has five nieces and two nephews though, and she will do anything for them. And there is much more to her than what you might think. Despite how prudish she might appear (she is notably very keen on criticizing her sister Greta for being too frivolous), she's really not conservative politically. The reason why she has no interest in men is made clear too: it is revealed that she "prefers women".
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: Most of the time, this will be a totally realistic series about life between the years of 1899 and 1999. Except for a few weird sequences, when a mysterious stranger suddenly turns up to help the protagonist with doing something important...
    • In Siden, sammet, trasa, lump, Elin is helped by an elderly bearded man with getting her dead best friend's doll down from an attic, after it had been stolen and hidden there. Later on, she is told that this man "doesn't exist". Elin wonders if God himself appeared to help her, but she will never get an answer...
    • In Arbetets döttrar, Elin has to hurry to get her painting to the Art Academy in Stockholm in time for a contest. But she can only make it thanks to an elderly bearded gate-keeper, who is there to open up the gates for her. Of course, it is later revealed that the Art Academy has no gate-keeper. Was it God again? Who knows?
    • In Drömmar av glas, Rebecka's mean school teacher gets a surprise visit from an inspector. Who happens to be a third elderly bearded man (Rebecka was even close to laughter, when she noticed how much he looked like a picture of God), who seems to not exist when the teacher makes inquiries afterwards...
    • In Nya tider, Rebecka meets (of course) a fourth elderly bearded man in front of a grave at a town cemetery. He tells her that the grave belongs to his mean former school teacher, and his story helps Rebecka with not giving up her own dreams of becoming a teacher. But no matter how much she looks for it afterwards, she can never find the grave again. Which makes you wonder (yet again) who the old man was...
    • Probably subverted in Det fjärde rummet, when poor Anna is suddenly saved from becoming a prostitute by a kind man from the Salvation Army. You can argue that God maybe sent this man to Anna at the last moment, so she wouldn't have to find a real "customer". But there's no real implication that he was anything but just a normal man, who was really happy to help a penniless fourteen-year-old girl from destruction...
    • In Skärvor av kristall, Louise gets a visit from a strange woman. She has come to deliver a letter from Louise's dead mother, and she introduces herself as one of Louise's mother's old fellow inmates at the mental hospital. But she also claims that she's God. It is never really explained if she was telling the truth about being God or if she only was insane…
    • In Roller och ridåer, one of Elin's paintings is suddenly sold at a gallery after it has been up for sale for years. This gives Elin and her daughter Judith some much needed money, and it would have been fine and good... Except for that the buyer is yet another mysterious elderly bearded man, who can't be tracked down!
  • Nice Jewish Boy: Heinz Lewinsky is this. He's a Jewish refugee from Nazi Germany and Louise's first boyfriend, who opens her eyes for how the Jews are treated (and remember, this was right before the World War II started). It is later revealed that Louise got married to him. And like so many other Nice Jewish Boys, he became a doctor.
  • Only Friend:
    • In "Drömmar av glas", Rebecka and Samuel are each other's only friend.
    • In "Skärvor av kristall", Louise comes to see Heinz as her only friend after she has a falling out with her former best friend Caroline.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Mandi is really named Amanda, but her family and her friends will never call her that. And the fact that her abusive husband does call her "Amanda" sets him apart from the rest.
  • Plucky Girl: While you can say that most of the girls in this series are plucky, Elin has to be the best example of the lot. She will become (in)famous for having run away from home to make money for her family, when she only was el even years old.
  • Preacher's Kid: Judith was given up for adoption and spent her whole childhood with a religious family. Actually, her uncle (who becomes her legal guardian after her parents die in an accident) even is a priest. Judith is not really "Angelic", but she's not really "Diabolic" either. Rather, she is just a normal teenage girl. But that is terrible enough to her adoptive family, who are not portrayed in a positive light at all. So in the end, she feels that she can't fit in with them and eventually returns to her biological family.
  • Real Women Don't Wear Dresses: As this series develops a very strong pro-feminist message as the time goes by, it ends up in the territory of this trope. Almost all the Andersson women have a career of their own, even if they are married and live in a time when married women were supposed to be housewives. Mandi is the only one out of four sisters to give up her career plans when she gets married, and she is punished for her "stupid" choice by ending up being abused by her husband ("that's what happens if you become dependant on a man, girls"). And the Girly Girl Åsa is treated as a more whiny and prissy person than her Tomboy sister Saga. But it seems to go the other way around too, as all the men have to give up their machismo (or not be macho men in the first place) if they want to be portrayed in a positive light. So you can say that the message is that all traditional gender roles, both for women and men, are bad...
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Ida Sofia is an intelligent and introverted Blue Oni, compared to her sisters Mandi and Greta, who are the more extroverted Red Onis.
  • School Forced Us Together: In "Spränga gränser", Cecilia is the de facto leader of a group of five very different girls. Cecilia is a Fiery Redhead and the one who comes up with all the new ideas. Bibbi is the pretty blonde, who seems to know more about men than the others. Aina is a Straw Nihilist, who likes to read Sartre and worry about a new war maybe starting. Gunilla is the shy and very religious Preacher's Kid. Helene is the one girl in the group with the most nondescript personality, but she got a leg damaged from polio and looks like Audrey Hepburn. Also, Cecilia and Bibbi have working class parents and the other three have middle class parents.
  • Sibling Rivalry: Most of the siblings in this series will get along with each other, even if they are notably different. The one big exception is Cecilia and Hannes in "Spränga gränser". Cecilia feels that she almost must be ashamed of her good grades in school, because of her brother's dyxlexia. Hannes is very bitter about his sister's success, and he wrongly thinks that he's the The Unfavorite with their parents. But actually, Cecilia feels a bit of jealousy towards Hannes too: He has gotten a job already and makes his own money, which she only can do during the summer breaks from school. Their mother has also decided that Cecilia has to get a High School diploma note , while nobody will ever put any such pressure on Hannes. And also, Hannes is two years older than her and a boy, so he can go wherever he wants, while Cecilia is forbidden by their mother to even think of doing the things which he does. And to make the point even clearer, the two siblings are also divided in their different tastes in music: Cecilia likes up-tempo rock 'n' roll and Hannes prefers moody jazz. Things become a bit better between the two though over the course of the book: Cecilia decides to help Hannes with writing down his poems and even having them published, and it seems like they have started to get a new understanding for each other's problems.
  • Sibling Yin-Yang:
    • Ida Sofia and Mandi are Polar Opposite Twins and are a perfect example of Red Oni, Blue Oni already as four-year-olds. Ida Sofia is the introverted and cynical Book Worm, Mandi is more extroverted and naive and Book Dumb.
    • Ida Sofia and Greta have an example of The Glorious War of Sisterly Rivalry. Ida Sofia is the straight-laced intellectual, while Greta is an impulsive The Fashionista.
    • Eric and Otto have a case of Sensitive Guy and Manly Man. Eric is meeker and sensitive and becomes a confectioner. Otto is tougher and more austere and becomes a military officer.
    • When it comes to Cecilia and Hannes, they develop a full-blown Sibling Rivalry. Cecilia is pretty much pressured into getting a High School diploma, whether that is what she wants or not. Hannes has dyslexia and could hardly get even a passing grade in Elementary School, so he thinks that he is The Unfavorite. But if you ask Cecilia, he is free at least to get a job and make money and simply go anywhere he wants. They are constantly jealous of each other and are even divided by their different tastes in music: Cecilia's upbeat rock'n'roll vs Hannes's moody jazz. It is only very gradually, that they can start to approach each other again.
    • Åsa and Saga are a Tomboy and Girly Girl pair. Åsa is a The Fashionista, who becomes a fashion designer. Saga is the Outdoorsy Gal, who is more interested in becoming a farmer like their parents.
  • Straw Feminist: Most of the time, this will be a very pro-feminist series. So you don't expect this trope to appear. But in the last book ("Fyra systrar"), we get an example of this from the women in a very typical 1970s commune. They refuse to do things like cleaning up their own messes around the house, because "we women have to start caring about more important things". It is up to new-comer Nina to point out that someone has to clean the house. And as there are no men in the commune, the women have to help each other out with all the chores. It is implied that they get better after Nina had to tell them off, but they still are extreme by the standards of most of the other people in the area.
  • Teenage Pregnancy:
    • Elin must have been only 17 years old when her oldest daughter Rebecka was born.
    • Judith is the same young age when her daughter Maria is born.
  • The Glorious War of Sisterly Rivalry: Ida Sofia is a straight-laced intellectual, while Greta is an impulsive The Fashionista.