Amidst the cold winter landscape of Sweden, an unlikely affair unravels between two people of opposing political ideals. Red Winter, written by Anneli Furmark, is part of a trilogy of graphic novels. This is the final installment and the first to be translated into English. The story begins with Siv, a married mother of three, meeting her lover on a snowy night. Ulrik is her young lover, an idealist, and a Communist party member. He wants her to leave her family, so they can be together. She is hesitant, worried that her children would hate her. Also, would she be accepted by his Communist comrades? He shows his naivety about their love. He believes her political views could change. The panels swirl in a combination of blue, black, and grey. You can feel the sense of desperation as their arms wrap around each other. Ulrik keeps holding onto her, not wanting to let this moment end.

The next chapter is told from the perspective of Marita, Siv’s daughter. While searching for money in her parent’s room she discovers a journal. In it, her mother writes about her love and longing for Ulrik. Marita is shocked and doesn’t know what to do with the information. We see her go about her day, buying candy, and meeting up with her classmate. Marita is distracted, but she continues to say nothing. She uses music to drown out and distract her from the familial problems bubbling just beneath the surface.

I really struggled with my feelings about Siv. Siv leaving her children home alone as she goes out to engage in an affair felt like bad parenting. It made her character out to be selfish, and hard to root for. It is mentioned in the story that Siv feels alone. Not much time is spent on her home life to understand why she thinks this way. Ulrik, on the other hand, has very clear motivations. We learn in his back history that Ulrik’s father is not proud of him. His father is a priest and a pacifist. Ulrik went into the military, he believes that violence is necessary to achieve political objectives. This reveals how important Ulrik holds his political beliefs, and what he is willing to sacrifice for them.

I cannot recommend Red Winter unless you have a niche collection that is into Swedish history. The graphic novel had so many historical and musical references to events in Swedish history, that it was frustrating to understand how things fit together. For example, what did it mean to be a Social Democrat vs being a Communist? While there are footnotes to explain that “unga ornar” means Swedish labor movement, I have no clue what is this movement about, and why is it important to these characters. Without a introduction providing context to historical events in 1970’s Sweden, it left me feeling dissatisfied and led to a less enjoyable reading experience. A confused reader is not an engaged reader.

Red Winter
by Anneli Furmark
ISBN: 9781770463066
Drawn & Quarterly, 2018
Publisher Age Rating: Adult

 

  • Tanya

    | She/Her

    Tanya work as a librarian at a maximum security prison in Northern California. She runs a weekly book club which changes themes and genres on a quarterly basis. Her favorite book club moment was watching her book club members perform a play in front of an audience and getting a warm ovation. Tanya is a long-time lover of Manga and animes. Her favorites include anything by Clamp, Fullmetal Alchemist, Wolf Children, Pandora Hearts and Dawn of the Arcana. In her spare time enjoys trying out new recipes from Pinterest.

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