In English

The author and her books – A presentation in English

by Hannah Normansell

About the author

Birgitta Renström Linde lives in Alingsås, a town near Gothenburg. She was born in Värmland and spent the first few years of her life near Karlstad. A town on the shores of Vänern, Sweden’s largest lake.

After Birgitta had retired from her career as a neuropsychologist at Sahlgrenska University hospital in Gotheburg she found time to write. So far she has written two books ‘Huldas Hemlighet’ and ‘Spegelfällan’. Both books have been published by Idus.

Huldas Hemlighet, published 2012

Review by BTJ

“The book is written in a clear and accessible language with a warm feeling of empathy permeating throughout the book.”

“Altogether an excellent debut by this author about the life of women, not that long ago.”

Quotation from the book:

“Suddenly all the obligations started to melt away and their hands started to search for one another. It was as if all these emotions that had been quietly resting under the polished exterior of diligence and virtue all of a sudden flooded over them. She felt her body fill with lust and desire. When he lay his warm hands on her bosom there was no turning back.”

The plot

In this story we follow the life of Hulda from 1881-1939. Hulda is Birgittas maternal grandmother, a grandmother she never met, only heard stories about.

The story starts with Huldas childhood in Värmland at the end of the 19th century. In 1903, when Hulda is 22 years old she leaves the village she grew up in and moves to another village outside of Stockholm. Here she starts working in a pharmacy. During her time there she meets a man, and becomes pregnant. The shame associated with carrying and giving birth to child outside of marriage is great. She decides that she cannot stay in Värmland and travels to Stockholm where she gives birth to the baby. She gives birth in a children’s home that was then, the first in Sweden to also train midwives. It is here that Hulda’s dream of becoming a midwife herself is also born.

During Hulda’s time in Stockholm she worked as a cook and a maid with different families. She was also a wet-nurse in the children’s home where she gave birth to her son. It was not long before she felt obliged, due to her circumstances, to leave her son in a foster home. Hulda then returned to Värmland.

This book follows the life of a woman living in a time that differs greatly from our own. It touches our shared history and also mirrors aspects of life, which are still very relevant to this day.

The background to Hulda’s Hemlighet

“I don’t want to die, I want to know what happened. Apparently I had a brother! I didn’t believe it then, when someone told me, but now I am thinking about it. Did I have a brother? I would love to know, I don’t want to die this curious!” The words of Birgitta’s mother. She did not live to find out the truth, if she had really had a brother.

“It was my mother Britta’s words, when she lay on her death bed 2007, which awoke my curiosity about my grandmother’s life,” says Birgitta.

After retirement Birgitta saw it as her duty to search for the answers to her mother’s questions.

Hulda died in 1939, just after the Second World War broke out and a long time before Birgitta was born. The only thing Birgitta had heard about her was that she was a ‘hard worker’ and that she was interested in remedies and had plans to become a midwife. Her dreams were crushed by what she had seen as unavoidable choices she felt obliged to make.

For Birgitta and all the other family members, Hulda’s life was shrouded in mystery. Birgitta started to research into her ancestry and discovered that Huldas life story was a lot more interesting and exciting than she could have imagined. Hulda had given birth to a son, Karl-Uno on February 5th 1906 in Stockholm and that she have given him away to a foster family when he was still a baby. Birgitta found her cousins, Karl-Uno’s daughter’s, and first cousins once removed living in Stockholm, and visited them.

Spegelfällan, published 2013

A review from BTJ:

“The language used is easily understood”

“…the author’s message is both thought provoking and urgent.”

The plot

The year is 1986. Susanne who is 19 years old, receives the news that her dream is about to come true. She has earned a place at the medical school in Gothenburg. Then something unexpected occurs. We see how exclusion mechanisms, prejudices and society’s contempt for weakness affect those who do not fit into the mould that society has formed for them.

The reader follows Susanne up until 2009, during which time heath care in Sweden is continually undergoing reorganisation and cutbacks affecting all areas. Beds in the hospitals are reducing in number and these economic savings affect Susanne’s friend Lena, who becomes ill. The consequences are serious.

This book portrays people involved in and affected by the health care system in different ways.

The book’s characters

In an exciting way, Birgitta chose to place a book about Susanne’s journey through Swedish health care from 1986-2009, against a backdrop of the development and changes in the health care system and society during that same time.

In the book different pictures of health care are portrayed. The positions of the bosses Eva, Magnus and Tommy are described and their ambitions depicted. Nursing assistant Kerstin’s mother Mia becomes a patient, as does Tommy’s ex-wife Tina, who is also a nurse. Everyone in the book sees life and health care from different perspectives. As a contrast we also meet Susanne’s husband Staffan who is an engineer. We also follow Susanne’s daughter Sara and discover how she sees her parents’ different careers and how it in turn affects her own choice of career. In the book we also meet Susanne’s old school friend Lena. Through her we experience, in a dramatic way, how the system can fail when the resources available are not enough.

None of the characters in the book are entirely consistent in their own values and they do not always live as they preach. Which is of course very human. Birgitta has also painted a picture of how certain characters waver, how they develop under pressure and how they see themselves, in relation to their own lives and the system that they are an integral part of.