Ellen Strömberg: Chasing Water

“Hanna and I were permanent, boys were dispensable.”

Author: Ellen Strömberg
Swedish original: Jaga vatten
Publisher: Schildts & Söderströms, 2018
Genre: Literary fiction
Number of pages: 150 pp.
Reading material: Swedish original, English sample

 Hanna and Rakel have been friends since they were little. Hanna was always the popular one, Rakel the one who tags along. In high school they spend time with boys and outline their boundaries, away from the forest groves, towards the coastline and water, on the other side of which is Sweden. They chase the horizon, intoxicating substances and hasty acts on the back seats of cars.

Rakel is still the hanger-on, comforting the boys Hanna’s left, but she refuses to submit. The balance of the two girls’ friendship is unstable, mutable and mysterious. Granny and Grandpa’s safety, as well as the childhood scents and flavours prevail in the background, as do Mother and Father, who turns silent after she leaves.

 “Strömberg shows that she is capable of minute description as well as natural – and funny – dialogue, and that she can create a powerful atmosphere without unnecessary mystery. The reader finds out things about Rachel’s development but described entirely without unnecessary psychological overlay. The book clearly examines themes such as the body, becoming a woman, and sexuality, but these are anchored in a lavish coming-of-age tale which is the core of the book. Chasing Water is simultaneously a keenly funny and deeply sad book about how to survive growing up and how to get over it.”
– Hufvudstadsbladet newspaper

 “All the themes in Chasing Water are described in the same subtle and effective way. The text feels profoundly crafted, and the descriptions about the most painful things are truly powerful. There are no mistakes, the reader isn’t duped, everything is spacious and establishes the book further. […]  Strömberg is a talented author with an instinctive sense of language and detail.”
– Svenska Dagbladet newspaper (Sweden)

There’s something rough about Strömberg’s stripped-down prose that makes the novel so convincing. Existence often appears somewhat soiled. Clichés such as ‘nothing is black or white’ are apt here – life is often rather grey. The characters can be described as undisciplined, while the opposite can be said to be true of Strömberg’s austere prose.”
– Vasabladet newspaper

Also available:
The Itch (2019)

About the author:
Ellen Strömberg