I couldn’t wait to pull this one off the shelf as a bit of a different non-fiction read, passed to me by my friend Sian. She usually likes harder or more experimental books than me but I think we basically agree on this one.

Robert Ferguson – “Scandinavians: In Search of the Soul of the North”

(24 March 2018, via BookCrossing)

This entertaining and long book starts off with an ill-planned trip to Copenhagen as a young man. We hear all about the various trials and tribulations but it doesn’t put him off and he moves to Norway, I think married to a Norwegian.

Ferguson’s plan for the book is:

… what isn’t, strictly speaking, a history so much as a journey, a discursive and digressive stroll through the last thousand years of Scandinavian culture in search of the soul of the north.

And from ill-fated explorers to a group of intellectuals who might have invented nordic gloom to a multiple killer, we meet the people who made Norway, Sweden and Denmark, with small excursions into Iceland, and also the people Ferguson has met (Sian is correct: he does have a remarkable facility for remembering conversations). He’s interested on the shifting fortunes of the three countries and the relationships between them, too.

It’s generally entertaining and informative: I liked the memoir parts more than some of the history and will admit to having skipped the play that pops up part way through and some of the detailed film discussions. But the parts on the wars, women’s roles in society, etc. were very interesting. I also realised that I’d never known what the 30 Years’ War was all about and now I (probably temporarily) understand that a bit better, so there we go!


I’m reading a very light novel set in an outdoor theatre not unlike the Minack in Cornwall, another easy win plucked from the shelves. Should have it finished tomorrow, although tomorrow is running post day, of course! And I’ve finished my Iris Murdoch for the month, so look out for that review soon …