Tag Archives: Fjallbacka

Reading Retreats #1: Fjallbacka; Where Fact and Fiction Meet (Part II)

So after our first walk through the village of Fjallbacka the other day (which only lead up to lunchtime with much more to discover after) visiting some of the sites from Camilla Lackberg’s series of books I thought in the second instalment I would take you to a place that inspired her. I wanted to say that this is the place inspired the novel yet it might have just inspired the murder that opens it – why quibble though, it was inspiration behind The Preacher in some way.

I am always fascinated by what can inspire an author and so, having been forewarned that it was quite a hike and I should take a bottle of water and a Mendelberg cake, I turned from Ingrid Berman Square (which I shared with you the other day) and headed to the start of Kungsklyftan, which leads you on a walk through and then over the mini-mountain of Vetteberget.

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Now when the lovely Emelie, of the West Sweden Tourist Board, said that all you had to do initially was walk up a few steps I think she might have made a small understatement as the first thing that greeted me after I had turned the corner was these wooden steps which lead you high off up into the wilderness.

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Having climbed those, had a quarter of my bottle of water and a third of my Mendelberg cake (which is a meringue bigger than most average human hands) to keep my fluids and sugar levels up I spotted that the previous steps had been a walk in the park, almost literally, as what lay ahead was stone steps in the most liberal sense of the word.

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Whilst climbing them I felt a real sense of adventure, especially as the walk was pretty much deserted. I was suddenly taken back to my youth when I was sent off ahead on walking holidays to ‘go and find the route’ up a mountain. There is also a wonderful sense of history of the place especially when you come to the level and are greeted by this…

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This is the path that goes over an old fault which was created by an earthquake in the ice age (yes I did wonder both if there might be one right then and what would happen and also if I might fall at any moment into the earths core – not that I am a drama queen at all) and as you can see amazingly three rocks go wedged by the ice and earthquake and all those tectonic shenanigans and have been wedged there ever since (and yes I did briefly worry that they might choose that minute to fall and flatten me) – isn’t it amazing?

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You can certainly see why Camilla Lackberg was haunted/fascinated/inspired by this place to stick a dead body down it, it does make a good place for someone to leave one that is at some point going to be found – as is the plan of the killer in The Preacher. It is a stunning place that at once feels rather out of this world and yet really grounds you to the earth and reminds you that you are on this big huge rock spinning through space. Before that made my head hurt I headed up a much steeper set of wooden steps to the top, and what a view awaited me…

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The whole of Fjallbacka (though this is only the old side as wordpress won’t let me upload panoramic photos) and the Islands that surround it lie before you, beautiful. I spent a wonderful forty minutes just looking at the view (and eating more Mendelberg) before the sun started to set and I knew it was time to head back down and onwards towards dinner.

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As everyone loves a food picture (oh come on you know they do) I thought I would share with you the amazing starter that arrived in the restaurant, which also luckily enough happened to be at my hotel – Stora Hotellet Bryggan which Lackberg used to base Erica’s parents home on in her books – where I got to watch this whilst I devoured more food and a cheeky cider or two.

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I am slightly obsessed with sunsets, I think they are one of the most beautiful natural daily occurrences ever, and this was one of the three up to that point that made me a bit breathless and weepy, you wait till we go to the Weather Islands in the next post though!

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Will all that it was time for this wanderer and adventurer to head to his bed, which aptly is where a sailor is once supposed to have laid his head after his adventures at sea and also aptly has a Victorian feel which is my favourite era, before more adventures (and several boat trips) awaited him next…

This post is the fourth post in a week of Savidge Reads in Sweden after I was sent by the lovely people at the West Sweden Tourist Board to go on a cold crime adventure.

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Reading Retreats #1: Fjallbacka; Where Fact and Fiction Meet (Part I)

If you are a big fan of the novels of Camilla Lackberg (and let’s be honest there are several million of those) then you may have pondered about, or even dreamed of going to, Fjallbacka which is her home town and also the setting of her crime series. Well, lucky you because having been on a trip there a few weeks ago I thought I would share a trip (or in fact two) around the village. If you haven’t read any of Camilla Lackberg’s books then you might want to try starting at the beginning of the series and in the meantime just enjoy the lovely pictures!!

When I arrived in Fjallbacka, having just had time to pop my luggage in my room and freshen up after a plane a train and a coach, I was met in the reception by the lovely Asa who both runs the Tourist Information on the waterfront and who also gives tours of the village and the murder sites which feature in Lackberg’s books. Now I am slightly fearful that I will miss out many of the facts of the villages history because Asa knows so many fascinating stories that to be frank you need to travel there and here them directly from her. But I will give you some snippets.

We started from the top of a snow free Fjallbacka, after I learnt how one of the townsmen had created the cardboard cartons that transport liquids – no lie, and what is amazing is when you arrive in the village you come from the back and so you are greeted with an unassuming, yet quaint, image of a small Swedish village. Go to the top of the hill near the church and the whole vista suddenly opens up in front of you and it is stunning…

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In the distance you might just be able to make out the diving board where one of the crimes in a later Lackberg novel begins as a man sits in this very spot of a morning and spots it! Here is of course where the church is which rises above the village and can be seen from virtually any street/house you walk into.

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The church is relatively new (though over a hundred years old) to the area as in times of old people would have to travel a further six miles, not that many people lived in Fjallbacka preferring the islands until the herring boom in the 1800’s. When the church was added, after the land was donated to the villagers for free, it was decided that it should be something special yet something in keeping with traditional churches. How did they do this? Well if you look at the picture above you will see that not only is the granite its made from several colours it is all sorts of shapes making it like a puzzle not your normal structure. It is very beautiful and inside it simply (and simplistically) breathtakingly beautiful…

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Those of you who have read the books will know that the church features a lot in the books, though not quite as much as the graveyard does, ha! If you have seen the TV adaptations you will be thinking I am a liar because they used another church as this one was deemed to bright. I loved the brightness though, I could have spent ages in there but Asa had some much more to show me as we wandered through the winding streets, including Lackberg’s very own fishing cabin which is staying a secret with me. The houses in the village are beautiful all having to be built to a specific traditional design to make sure it is in keeping. Don’t they just instantly conjure ‘cold crime’?

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As we wandered through the streets we also caught more of the spots from Lackberg’s books. I haven’t gotten this far in the series yet but this, sadly now closed and run down, hotel becomes a spa in one book…

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To me it looks more like it should be a house come book shop, doesn’t it to you? If any has a spare few million do please let me kow as I would simply adore to take it on. Anyway, we also saw the factory where the very rich and very naughty family from The Ice Princess is based on, but I can’t share all these sites with you as you won’t go! Now diverting from Lackberg a little, one of the places that you simply HAVE to go and visit and cant really miss is Setterlinds Bakery (it does get a mention in the books) which was non other than Ingrid Bergman’s favourite bakery where she got her favourite cake (I was reliably informed by Emelie from West Sweden Tourist Board) Mendelberg which I will report on later in the week…

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Ingrid Bergman actually moved to one of the islands just off the coast of Fjallbacka, following one of her marriages, to escape the glare at the height of her Hollywood fame. Initially, as you might imagine, this caused quite a stir upon her arrival not just because of her fame but also her occasionally hedonistic lifestyle which wasn’t in keeping with morals of the time. Soon enough though it was like she had never not lived there to the point that the town, without the council knowing when they did it, added Ingrid Bergman square after her death and indeed it is one of the focal points and most popular meeting place in the town.

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From here you can take a walk up Kungsklyftan, which we will do later in the week as a) we haven’t finished the tour yet b) it features in the opening of The Preacher which I will be discussing tomorrow and is so stunning it needs a whole post of its own, or you can take in the marina…

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…Which is what I did. Take a walk along and around the old town and  head out into one of the jetties and you get a whole new view of the village facing it straight on, again showing you how utterly beautiful it is. Can you tell I was smitten and already wondering if I could hide in a fishermans hut all of my own for a summer?

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After all that walking, and having said goodbye to the delightful Asa (who very kindly gave me a lift after I had been on the Weather Islands – you won’t believe your eyes – back to the train station and who I might be plotting doing something literary in Fjallbacka with) I realised I was starving. Whilst I should could have simply run back to Setterlind’s and bought the shop, I decided to try the recommended (by Asa) local fish store…

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…You might think this doesn’t look like an ideal luncheon stop, secretly round the back though is a seafront restaurant which only serves possibly the best fish and chips that I have ever had – coming from a Northern Englishman that is high praise indeed!

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Sitting watching the boats and the people and the waves, eating freshly caught fish goujons and just embracing the peace and quite and the fresh air was pure heaven, and the perfect break before I headed off up Kungsklyftan which we will head to on Thursday. It is honestly beautiful. Until then, who else has been to Fjallbacka? And which other places and settings from books have you been to and were they as you expected.

This post is the second in a week of Savidge Reads in Sweden after I was sent by the lovely people at the West Sweden Tourist Board to go on a cold crime adventure.

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The Ice Princess – Camilla Lackberg

In preparation for my trip to Sweden I thought that it was time for me to read some Camilla Lackberg, especially as in essence Camilla was the reason that I was being sent off to her homeland of Fjallbacka by the lovely people at West Sweden tourism. Well believe you me I had many an offer to lend me a copy of The Ice Princess (you have to start at the beginning of a series don’t you?) because it turned out Camilla has a lot of fans in my office, which shouldn’t be a surprise as she has sold over 9,000,000 copies of her books. I have always meant to read her novels, partly because people like Gav have raved so much about her, yet been hesitant to start a new series of crime novels (as I think I am addicted to about five already, aren’t we all?) Fortunately Lackberg’s novels do stand out from the crowd…

Harper Books, paperback, 2008, fiction, 400 pages, borrowed from my mate Barb

Upon her return to her hometown following the death of her parents, Erica Falck begins to feel that death and tragedy might be following her when her childhood friend Alex is found dead in the bath with her wrists slashed. Erica and Alex’s friendship had however waned after Alex suddenly stopped speaking to her before leaving in her pre-teens. The bonds have not been forgotten by Alex’s parents who, as Erica is a semi-successful writer of biographies and has become a small celebrity in Fjallbacka, ask her to write about their daughter.

In doing so Erica starts to discover that the perfect life Alex had created wasn’t all that she made people believe and that there were many secrets in her past. It soon dawns on Erica that Alex may not have committed suicide at all, but who would want to kill her? Subsequently local detective in charge of the case Patrik Hedstrom is coming to the same conclusion and it looks like something from Alex’s past has returned to haunt her, but what and why?

It was eerie stepping into the shadowy house. Her fear of the dark made it hard for her to breathe, and she forced herself to take some deep breaths to calm her nerves. She thankfully remembered the torch in her coat pocket and said a silent prayer that the batteries were good. They were. The light from the torch made her feel a bit calmer.

You might be thinking this sounds very like a lot of other thrillers, be they cold crime or not, out there however Lackberg does several things that make this different. Firstly she invests heavily in her characters, Erica and Patrik come fully formed off the page foibles and all. Erica is restless with a longing for her homeland yet a desire to escape it and a small yearning to settle down despite herself, there is also the complicated relationship with her sister who she has become slightly estranged from due to her violent abusive husband. Patrik too is at a cross roads in his life after a failed marriage but guess what, he is actually a decent guy – no signs of being a bastard in the office or having a drink problem insight, which we see so often in this genre.

It would be true to say that The Ice Princess is not a thriller which has a plot which whizzes you into a page turning frenzy, yet we don’t always want that do we? It has a slower pace and uses other ways to grip the reader. After all there are other things that keep you reading on as the plot slowly twists and turns when more is brought to light about Alex and the mysteries surrounding both her life and death. The biggest being the town of Fjallbacka, where the mystery is set, and the people who inhabit it – obviously the fictional ones.

As we learn more about the village Fjallbacka itself becomes one of the main characters as Lackberg slowly builds its streets and its people, and the cast of peripheral characters and their stories within the stories are marvellous. Characters such as the lonely old woman who collects Santa’s and shows them off in her house so children come to visit her or a man so caught up in OCD that he dare not leave the house add to the layers of the setting and the book itself. These also add layers in terms of themes for the book be it loneliness, people stuck in unhappy marriages, grief and in the case of Erica’s sister the very big theme of domestic violence which often is harder to read than the murders as they start to rise.

Lackberg also throws the love story between Erica and Patrik into The Ice Princess. Now before I get accused of spoilers we learn very swiftly that Patrik and Erica know each other from their youths and he had a mammoth crush on her, so its hinted at from the off. I was really worried as I was thinking it was going to be really saccharine, in fact it is wonderfully developed and adds lightness to the book which does get darker and darker. If that wasn’t enough there is more. As someone who loves books and reading about them or the writing process there is also an interesting theme in The Ice Princess as Erica goes from writing her biographies to writing what might be her first novel. As the book continues we almost follow an author fictionally writing about writing, which gives the book another dynamic in a way.

At first, when she’d thought that Alex’s death was suicide, she’d considered writing a book to answer the question ‘why?’ It would have been more of a biography. Now the material was increasingly taking the shape of a crime novel, a genre to which she’d never felt particularly attracted. It was people – their relationships and psychological motivations – that she was interested in; she thought that was something most crime novels had to give up in favour of bloody murders and cold shivers running down the spine.

So all in all if you like your crime thrillers to be more than just twist after twist after page turning twist then I would recommend you give The Ice Princess a whirl. It is one of those crime novels that not only has a mystery, and indeed a rather grim and horrendous one, at its heart but also looks at the way a murder affects the characters and the place around it with multiple layers and facets. It seems I might have a new crime series to regularly dip in and out of.

In truth I have already read the first three, more on those soon, and if that wasn’t enough in my next post I will be taking you on a tour of the town of Fjallbacka and some of its murder sites. I really do spoil you rotten don’t I? In the meantime though who else had read The Ice Princess and Lackberg’s series and what have you made of them?

This post is the first in a week of Savidge Reads in Sweden after I was sent by the lovely people at the West Sweden Tourist Board to go on a cold crime adventure.

 

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Savidge Reads Heads To Sweden For A Holiday!

By the time you read this I will either be chewing my nails to pieces waiting to get on a plane, be up several thousands of miles in the sky in that tin can plane or be safely in Sweden enjoying a fortifying drink, of any variety. I am going to be spending a long weekend visiting Gothenburg, Fjallbacka, Valo Island and the Weather Islands as the Swedish Tourist Board are very kindly sending me off to the fictional murder sites (which looks rather ominous when you see it like that, ha) of the novels of Camilla Lackberg, who I have been devouring the series of in preparation. I absolutely cannot wait.

The Weather Islands

Instead of scheduling posts, or taking my lovely new purple laptop with me I have decided to give myself a well earned rest, post festival, and also give the blog a rest for a while. I plan a few days of adventure and exciting yet also some quiet time of thinking and just taking the world in and pondering. I think I need it. (I will be tweeting and instagramming as I go though. Ha!) Reading however I have most certainly packed for as you can see, all aptly Swedish.

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Once I am back there will be no stopping me, I have a week of Swedish themed posts and a holiday to report back on, plus I have plans to gig the blog about a bit which I will mull over I am sure when I am not in awe at my surroundings over the next few days. Which reminds me… While I am away do please, please, please keep your questions and suggestions coming in.

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Suitably Swedish Suggestions…

Fingers crossed, in about nine weeks I will be heading off to Scandinavia, where I have never been before and always wanted to go. This has been a sudden and rather exciting development as a company is kindly sending me off to Sweden, in conjuncture with the Swedish Tourist Board, all thanks to this very blog. First I will be flying off to Gothenburg and then enjoying a ‘cold crime tour’ heading to Fjallbacka and spending some time on some of the remote islands out that way. To say I am thrilled or excited is an understatement, there has been much jumping up and down with joy, and now I am ready to start prepping… with books!


As I have mentioned many a time on this blog, not only do I like to read books set in the country and the place that I visit when I go away, I also like to reading authors from the area along with books set there before hand. So now I am going to start having some trips to Sweden through the joys of books and I wondered if you might help me with some recommendations…

I have already pulled some Camilla Lackberg and Lars Kepler from the shelves. I think I have a copy of The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson somewhere and I really want to read Catharina Ingelman-Sundberg’s The Little Old Lady Who Broke All The Rules admittedly partly because of the title. I have read the first and last of Henning Mankell’s Wallander series, I have a standalone or two of his. I don’t have any of the Stieg Larsson books as I tried and failed with the first one though I loved the films. Interestingly, speaking of that visual media, I have just been religiously watching the first two series of The Bridge (seriously how brilliant is that show and how amazing are Saga and Martin?) over the last few weeks with The Beard which I am now having withdrawal symptoms from. In fact if you can tell me of any books as brilliant to read as The Bridge was to watch I would be overjoyed.

Anyway, as you can see I could really do with some more recommendations, not just cold crime – though I love it so – but also any contemporary or classic literature which might take my fancy. Can you help? Get suggesting, the more the merrier…

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