A Faraway Island and The Lily Pond are by Annika Thor, translated from Swedish by Linda Schenck. Thor has written four historical novels about Stephanie and Nellie Steiner, two Jewish sisters from a cultured Viennese family. The girls have been sent to a remote Swedish fishing village during World War II, while their parents attempt to emigrate to America. Stephanie, the older sister, has been assigned to a home that seems harsh and unwelcoming at first. She struggles to learn Swedish and is ruthlessly bullied by the popular girls at school. Nellie, on the other hand, is taken in by a welcoming family with younger children and she makes friends easily. A Faraway Island has won the Mildred L. Batchelder Award for the best book in translation. The series has also been made into a television program in Sweden.
The Lily Pond follows Stephanie to Goteburg where she has a scholarship to attend school. Stephanie dreams of becoming a doctor like her father, and excels at her lessons. She boards with a wealthy family who treat her more like a servant than a guest. Stephanie falls in love with their 18 year old son, Sven, but he thinks of her as a little sister. As the war progresses, news from Stephanie’s parents comes less and less often as their situation worsens. The hope of emigrating as a family to America seems to be slipping away. Thor does a convincing job of describing Stephanie’s adolescent feelings as she makes her way in the world, feels love and makes new friends. I look forward to reading the next two installments to see how Stephanie’s and Nellie’s stories will end.
reviewed by Victoria