Genre: historical, childrens, teen
Rating: 4.5 /5
Original language: Swedish
Translations: English, Norwegian, Finnish, Dutch, German, Russian
A year after Stephie
Steiner and her younger sister, Nellie, left Nazi-occupied Vienna,
Stephie has finally adapted to life on the rugged Swedish island where
she now lives. But more change awaits Stephie: her foster parents have
allowed her to enroll in school on the mainland, in Goteberg. Stephie is
eager to go. Not only will she be pursuing her studies, she'll be
living in a cultured city again—under the same roof as Sven, the son of
the lodgers who rented her foster parents' cottage for the summer.
years her senior, Sven dazzles Stephie with his charm, his talk of
equality, and his anti-Hitler sentiments. Stephie can't help
herself—she's falling in love. As she navigates a sea of new emotions,
she also grapples with what it means to be beholden to others, with her
constant worry about what her parents are enduring back in Vienna, and
with the menacing spread of Nazi ideology, even in Sweden. In these
troubled times, her true friends, Stephie discovers, are the ones she
Eventhough this book is technichally the second book in a series, it can be read seperately. I have not read the first book and this did not lead to any confusion. I read this book for the fist time when I was about twelve and I remember thinking it a very good book, so I was interested to revisit the story and to see if I still felt the same way. I do enjoy reading some childrens stories, but I don't always feel like I'm really submerged in the story. The Lily Pond on the other hand was really gripping and I found myself relating to Stephie a lot. I think for children this book is both entertaining and educational.
A theme in this book is the second world war and usually I also don't really connect to those kind of stories, because to me they seem very distant and it is hard to imagine the true horrors of the war if you have neaver lived it yourself. Also most books tend to focus a lot on the large effects the war has on people. In this case the author did a great job of incorporating many small details of the war without them overtaking the plotline and this made it easy to relate to the main character and feel for her, eventhough I am in a very different situation than Stephie. Most books I have read about the second world war are set in a country where people are actually fighting, so it was interesting to read from a little different perspective. The book raises the question how countries that are not participating in war should deal with fugitives and the war in general, and with everything that is going on right now in the Middle East and Africa this question is again very relevant.
The book deals a lot with loneliness and Thor does a great job of truely making you feel lonely. I loved how towards the end of the book you find out that there are actually people who understood Stephie all along. Stephie's friendship with May is really heartwarming, May is a friend I think we all like to have. She doesn't follow the crowd, has her own opinions and sticks up for Stephie when no one else does. Different teachers in the story represented different opinions on the war and I am glad that Thor included both 'bad' and 'good' teachers. Aunt Marta, who takes Stephie in when she first arrives in Sweden, is one of those mother figures that seems harsh and strict at first, but you know that she loves Stephie like she is her own daughter and would do anything for her. Aunt Marta is part of the Pentecostal church, and eventhough this only plays a small part in the story I appreciated that there are both nice and not so nice people part of the church as well as nice and not so nice people who are not part of the church. To often when religion is included it is only done to vent the authors own believes, but Thor gives the reader the space to believe what he or she wants.
Stephie herself is thirteen year and the author truely made her seem like she was 13. In other books I often have problems with teenagers appearing younger or older than they are in reality, but here this was not the case. Stephie could sometimes be very mature, but she still needed a mother figure which I thought was very realistic. In the book she deals with first love, which was cute, but since she was only 13 I am glad it didn't turn into anything more.