April Witch by Majgull Axelsson

September 13, 2010
By Speedy BRONZE, Earlham, Iowa
Speedy BRONZE, Earlham, Iowa
2 articles 0 photos 0 comments

April Witch Falls Short of Bewitching

April Witch is the story of a severely disabled woman named Desiree, her three “sisters”, and her plan to find out which life was stolen from her. The second novel by Majgull Axelsson, it was originally published in 1997. The book was well received in its native Sweden, and even won the country’s most prestigious literary award. I don’t know if the Swedes have a different definition of “good”, or if something was lost in translation, but I wouldn’t have given this novel such a high honor. While the novel was written well and had deep and believable characters, the story was less than satisfying.

Desiree was born to and given up by a woman named Ella Johansson. She was born with cerebral palsy and paralysis, and often suffers from epileptic seizures. She can hardly move, and has to talk by blowing into a computer. When she was young, doctors said she would never learn, but she is actually incredibly intelligent, reading books by Stephen Hawking and pondering the universe. On top of her amazing mental powers, she is an april witch, meaning she can leave her body and inhabit other creatures.

After giving up Desiree, Ella took in three foster daughters. Christina was severely abused by her real mother. She is now a physician, and her life looks perfect, but inside she battles feelings of inferiority. Margereta was abandoned in a laundromat as a newborn. She is now a physicist, but feels something is missing in her life, and tries to fill it with casual, meaningless relationships with men. Birgitta was neglected by her alcoholic mother, and is now a junkie, alcoholic prostitute. Desiree thinks one of her “sisters” lived the life meant for her, and sends each a letter, causing them to reflect about their lives.

The story had a really nice premise, but the summary was a little misleading. The entire part about Desiree being an april witch wasn’t expanded on all that much. In fact, it could have been left out all together without really affecting the plot. Christina works in the care facility where Desiree lives, and Desiree’s doctor used to be a lodger at Ella’s house. She was already pretty well connected with the three girls, and wouldn’t have really needed supernatural powers to bring them together. The whole april witch aspect was unnecessary, and slowed down the plot a little.

Another problem with the story is that it has a big buildup, but fizzles out at the end. I kept waiting for something big to happen, but it never really did. It also kept hinting at magic, but didn’t really take it anywhere. It was like riding a big hill on a rollercoaster, only to find out it ends at the top.

This story had a lot of potential, but really dropped the ball. The characters were well developed, and the story was written very well. The overall plot is where this novel went wrong. Out of five stars, I’d have to give this a two. It just could have been so much better.

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