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Fishing in Utopia: Sweden and the Future That Disappeared [Hardcover]

Andrew Brown
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)

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Book Description

1 July 2008
From the 1960s to the 1980s, Sweden's social democratic model was the envy of every country in Western Europe. From the outside, at least, it appeared to be a prosperous, generous, egalitarian country that took care of its employees, operated a wide-ranging welfare system and offered shelter to immigrants, from Iran and the Middle East to the former Yugoslavia and Chile. It had a stable industrial economy that prized energy conservation and the environment. How could it fail? Andrew Brown lived there as a child in the 1960s. Ten years later, he returned: he married a Swedish woman and worked in a timber mill, raising his small son, first of all in a housing estate on the edge of Gothenberg, and then in a makeshift chalet in the forest. Fishing was his passion and his escape from a country and its people that alternately oppressed and fascinated him. He returned to live in England at the beginning of the 1980s, but he kept going back.This book tells his story, and woven into it is the landscape of Sweden, its rivers and forests with their attendant mythology, as well as the workings of a political and social system that seemed, for a decade or so, to have made Sweden into a modern utopia.


Product details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Granta Books (1 July 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1862079951
  • ISBN-13: 978-1862079953
  • Product Dimensions: 21.6 x 14 x 3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 513,078 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Review

'A beguiling account of one man's absorption in and by a country' -- Jeremy Paxman, Guardian

'A deft writer with a real descriptive talent and a humorous touch ... this is an affectionate and insightful portrait' -- Financial Times

'A marvellously seamless fusion of personal memoir and politico-cultural survey ... This is a brilliant book' -- Independent on Sunday

'A story of modern rootlessness and the search for something to believe in'
-- Sunday Times

'An extraordinary book ... part memoir, part quest, part travelogue ... It is in every sense a fascinating journey' -- New Statesman

'Deftly weaving rhapsodies of fishing in Swedish waters with political observations, he has written an idiosyncratic and highly enjoyable memoir.'
-- Literary Review

'He writes eloquently about the Swedish countryside, the shining lakes the long summer days.' -- The Observer

'Mr Brown's prose is as clear and bewitching as the lake waters which he learns to fish.' -- The Economist

About the Author

Andrew Brown was born in 1955 in London. After writing for the Spectator from Sweden, he returned to London and joined the Independent in 1986 and for the next decade was its religious affairs correspondent, parliamentary sketch writer, and other odd jobs. In 1995 he was awarded the Templeton Prize for the best religious affairs correspondent in Europe. He now writes regularly for the Guardian and contributes to Prospect, Salon, and the New Statesman. His previous books include The Darwin Wars: The Scientific Battle for the Soul of Man (Simon and Schuster 1999) and In the Beginning Was the Worm: Finding the Secrets of Life in a Tiny Hermaphrodite (Simon & Schuster/Columbia University Press 2003). He lives in north Essex, and is married, with two children.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
30 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wise and Balanced 3 Aug 2008
By Simon Clarke TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The author spent some time in Sweden as a child,and again
in his 20's when he was married to a Swedish woman,and working
in a timber mill.When his marriage broke up ,after the birth
of his son, he moved back to England.In this wise and balanced
book he returns to Sweden to explore his relationship with the
country.As he endeavours to define Sweden we learn of his childhood experiences,his working class life in the timber mill,his fishing,
and of the desolate beauty of Northern Sweden.He considers
Sweden's 'social experiment' portraying its faults as the country,like many others in Europe tries to come to terms with immigration and the disintegration of rural life.He does this -respectfully-and despite its shortcomings ,he regains his affection for much of what is Swedish. A wonderfully written fascinating read.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
Fishing in Utopia is a relatively short and easy book to read. It is in part autobiographical, a tribute to fishing, and a series of journalistic essays told in a 'journey' form to find Sweden's past, present and possible future. It is written in recollection of the author's youthful heydays, and interpreted with the mature discernment of a man some years on that has now a measure of accorded wisdom and seniority as a well known Fleet Street writer. All these different aspects are artfully interlaced into a well-written and unique style that gave me the impression I was reading a mysterious travelogue or cult road movie, forever moving towards the ultimate clue that would unlock the cultural secrets of this fascinating country.

Andrew Brown tells his story of living in Sweden with a Swedish partner (who he met in England) in the 1960s, after the break-up when his career as a British journalist took off, to the near present day when he re-journeys in a Saab to discover if Olof Palme's dream had sustained. Throughout a chronological structure, is weaved a passion for fishing - the author's commune with nature, and possible existentialist and cosmological solace. I am sorry to admit that I found my concentration slipping at repeated references to the finer intricacies of fishing technology.

Though the book is in essence an autobiography, Brown's writing style appeared to shield his personal reflections and those close to him, which has a somewhat noble aspect. However a blanket of privacy seemed to pervade the book, and I was left with the impression that the author is an intensely insular man, in love with his fishing retreats, and still an outsider.

Where this book excels is in its journalistic leanings that provide many commentaries on Swedish life.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wise and Balanced 11 May 2009
By Simon Clarke TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
The author spent some time in Sweden as a child,
and again in his 20's when he was married to a Swedish
woman,and working in a timber mill.When his marriage
broke up,after the birth of his son,he moved back to
England.
In this wise and balanced book he returns to Sweden to
explore his relationship with the country.As he endeavours
to define Sweden we learn of his childhood experiences,his
working class life in the timber mill.his fishing,and of
the desolate beauty of Northern Sweden.He considers Sweden's
'social experiment'-portraying its faults as the country,
like many others in Europe,tries to come to terms with
immigration and the disintegration of rural life.He does this-
respectfully-and despite its shortcomings,he regains his affection
for much of what is Swedish .A wonderfully written fascinating read.
Comment | 
Was this review helpful to you?
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
Part memoir, part nostalgic reminisce of a lost Sweden, part insight into a life of thoughts and words.

It's an entangled journey. Andrew Brown's very English childhood in Oxford, interjected by two years in Stockholm. A chance meeting with his future Swedish wife in a North Wales care home. A seminal period near Gothenburg, metamorphosing into a Swedish family man, while trying to discover himself. Followed by a self-launched writing career, bouncing between London and Scandinavia.

A journey threaded by a literary trail of fishing stories and experiences. A passion for angling that pumps like a main arterial vein. A passion that demands visits to silently desolate, engagingly surreal, forest bound lakes and rivers - described in poetic-like prose.

The time-travelling chapters and reflective nature of the first-person narrative, induce an awareness of a life passing by. Never really feeling at home in England or Sweden, this conflict adds a distinct objectiveness and sense of detachment when musing on the world around him. Yet he's undoubtedly in touch with the Swedish mindset, culture and deep rooted history.

Unsurprisingly, I found the writing references particularly interesting. His tentative and rather inauspicious start being transformed by some highly newsworthy stories, leading to a new life as a freelance journalist, columnist and author.

Sweden's enviable global status in the 1960s and 70s disappeared during the 1980s - suddenly and seemingly irreversibly. In the end he seems torn between a love for the country and the people and a despair for the future of them both.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars One man's view of Sweden and some of its characters.
Chose this book by mistake, What a happy accident. Informative, varied, personal account, examining the idea of what is a nation. If anything.
Published 6 months ago by muriel murray
4.0 out of 5 stars Like it, but it isn't perfect!
As a Swede, now living in another country, I found this book fascinating. It added understanding for me to the country I come from. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Green Trees
5.0 out of 5 stars An I book.
i wanted to learn about Sweden and this book gives an idiosynscratic view of the country. Brown includes information from his view about life in Sweden in the 1970's in a very... Read more
Published 11 months ago by Margaret Costello
5.0 out of 5 stars The great unravelling
'I had a job, a wife, a child, and a car, and these achievements mattered; but it seemed to me that they all derived from the man I became in the woods. Read more
Published 12 months ago by Simon Barrett
3.0 out of 5 stars Readable but not more
It is always interesting to hear someone from abroad give his version of a country as a foreigner living in a country. Read more
Published 19 months ago by Bernt Ersson
4.0 out of 5 stars Reading in Manchester
I think the author uses the term himself on a couple of occasions, and this book can be described as 'elegiac'. Read more
Published on 11 May 2012 by E. Granter
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book!
I haven't yet finished the book (have three more chapters to read) and I'm already writing a review! Read more
Published on 25 July 2010 by GunillaH
5.0 out of 5 stars Sweden and no mention of Abba!!!!
Fishing in Utopia is the bitter-sweet memoir of the time the author spent living, working and most importantly, fishing in Sweden. Read more
Published on 3 Feb 2010 by Patmel
2.0 out of 5 stars Surprisingly unsatisfying
As an Englishman with a love of Swedish nature, married to a Swede and having lived and worked in Sweden for some years, I was expecting to love this book, especially having read... Read more
Published on 21 Jan 2010 by Bob C
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent read... excellent insight into our neighbours....
No sooner had I got my hands on this book than I started to have second thoughts - was it really about Swedish politics? Read more
Published on 21 Nov 2009 by stevieby
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