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30 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wise and Balanced
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...
Published on 3 Aug 2008 by Simon Clarke

versus
7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting but ultimately a bit disappointing
I came to this after reading quite a bit of the authors journalistic work a few years back in the UK Guardian. He mentioned his history with Sweden and fishing in a few articles and as his articles were generally well written and interesting and I am in a similar situation to him (British, living in Sweden and like to fish), then I looked at more of his published work. So...
Published on 21 Sep 2009 by M. Belcher


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30 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wise and Balanced, 3 Aug 2008
By 
Simon Clarke (Hackney, London) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
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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
4.0 out of 5 stars There were many rainy days to read this book in August 2008!, 15 Sep 2008
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. Much societal dirt is dug up in a loosely investigative manner, but never enough to blemish his (or mine) utopian dream. There is for example an interesting section on the impact of immigration especially as 1 in 9 of the population have settled in Sweden, which was interesting to note in the sense that such a progressive and idealistic nation still has its own issues to deal with in this area.

Worshipful acts at the gills of fishing apart, I also enjoyed the many poetic descriptions of the natural landscape. If like me, you have only ever visited Stockholm, then Fishing for Utopia explores the 'way out' parts of Sweden, where the midges and mosquitoes know how to make you welcome, and the light and temperatures of the summers and winters are taken to their polar extreme.

The book's attention to nature is lyrical and inspiring, and I would definitely recommend reading it for this reason alone. If you are more historically and culturally driven (like me) then there are many insightful history lessons to digest, particularly the impact on the demise of rural life in an under-populated country and the bold attempts at shaping a democratically responsible society during Palme's reign.
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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 (Hackney, London) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
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.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Part memoir, part nostalgic reminisce of a lost Sweden, 19 Dec 2011
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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book!, 25 July 2010
I haven't yet finished the book (have three more chapters to read) and I'm already writing a review! This book is a brilliant and extraordinary portrait of one man's view on Sweden both present and past. You have to be a native of Sweden to really be able to appreciate this book. It introduced me to a Sweden I remember so well (I grew up here in the Seventies) yet it taught me many things that I didn't know, about life in the factories and the truth about "Child A." The Swedish media seldom gave you all the details. It's a small country and one's personal integrity must at all cost be protected.
His portrait of a classless society was interesting. I grew up thinking there was no such thing as class, but realized one day it had all been an illusion, like a lot of other things here. But Sweden was a great country to grow up in - we were all so sheltered and happy. Today's Sweden is quite different; we're now like any other Western European place with commercials on TV, fresh vegetables at the grocery store, and a crime rate that has doubled if not tripled.
Brown has one big passion, fishing. He writes almost poetically about it. Fishing is also a big part of many Swedes' lives. Although I didn't fish as much as Brown did, I still remember the joy of catching a fish, gutting it, frying it in the pan in our "stuga" and then savoring it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars insightful and poignant, 31 Oct 2009
By 
P. Pastuszko (Warsaw, POLAND) - See all my reviews
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Andrew Brown weaves his personal story together with that of Sweden, its people, its landscape and the transformations it has gone through over the past decades. This is an insightful and poignant look at this fascinating, though often overlooked, country. Parts of the book which describe at lenghth the author's fascination with nature and the art of catching fish will test the reader's patience, but the effort is worthwile. The sheer beauty of Brown's prose will delight all those with a passion for literature.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sweden and no mention of Abba!!!!, 3 Feb 2010
By 
Patmel (Hampshire, UK) - See all my reviews
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Fishing in Utopia is the bitter-sweet memoir of the time the author spent living, working and most importantly, fishing in Sweden.

He first lived in Sweden, in Stockholm, for a couple of years in his childhood and returned as a young man to be with his Swedish girlfriend. He and Anita later married and had one son but the marriage ended and he returned alone to England. During his time in Sweden, he was able to follow what appears to be the greatest love of his life - fishing, and from the book it is clear that he believes fishing there is like nowhere else on earth.

The book gives a detailed insight into the psyche of the Swedes and of Sweden itself. Naturally, he still has a close affinity with the country and as he now considers himself to be an outsider, he can see how the country has changed since he first lived there - and not always for the better.

I loved the book and read it in two sittings and finished it wanting more. I must be getting old and sentimental - I found it tugged at the heartstrings and spent the next few days brooding over it.

A great read.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent read... excellent insight into our neighbours...., 21 Nov 2009
No sooner had I got my hands on this book than I started to have second thoughts - was it really about Swedish politics? Would I have to plough through page after page of statistics? Once I started reading it however my fears vanished - this is a very human account of one young man following a young woman to her small-town home in Sweden, and trying to make sense of life there. After many years attempting to integrate himself - including learning the language, starting a family and holding down a tough manual job, it is not clear if he succeeded totally. However, fishing was the one pastime which constantly brought comfort and seemed to make sense of the vast isolating wilderness which is the Swedish countryside.

The honesty with which the author captures the raw emotions which relocation brings (confusion, and ...) gives the book enormous power, it is almost embarrassingly frank yet compelling at the same time.

On top of this, the writing is excellent - in a direct style, terse yet eloquent and no melodrama. I did think the political side was a little weak in parts - overall it is possible to get a picture of what has been happening to Sweden life in the past decades, but in particular instances the conclusions seem pushed or missing. As a one-time religious affairs correspondent, the author delivers an insightful ground-up perspective, very far from the statistics I feared! It is too grand an exercise to capture any nation with a few sentences (or numbers), and there must be better books when it comes to political analysis, which this one never claims to offer. This works better as an individual, private story.

However, I could not help being struck by the similarly between the 'Swedish model' of profitable businesses, individual rights, high taxes and the goal of a more egalitarian society to what has been promoted by New Labour in the UK. The firm unquestionable belief in such policies has not led to utopia in either case but increasing public disillusion and a system susceptible to economic waves. Not that Andrew Brown has been so crass to point this out, he is (thankfully) not waving any flag and you are free to interpret events to your own pleasing.

Oh, there is a lot about the joys of fishing - personally I don't fish, but I was never bored by the enthusiastic appreciation of the sport.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars sweden revisited, 27 Jun 2009
By 
Mr. W. B. Clews "wanger" (Manchester, UK) - See all my reviews
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In this elegant book, Brown examines an all too easily forgotten European country. Revisiting his past and disillusionment with Scandinavian-style socialism , he returns to Sweden to find a flourishing society that is attempting to use their influence in Europe for good. A deeply enlightening and eloquent book that describes much about modern Sweden. Bit too much fishing though...
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Reading in Manchester, 11 May 2012
I think the author uses the term himself on a couple of occasions, and this book can be described as 'elegiac'. An elegy both for a personal life that has moved on from youthful optimism, and a country that has done something rather similar - in the author's opinion.

The quality of the writing is high throughout, although for me the first half was stronger and more vivid. There is possibly something of a divide between the two halves in that the first seems more personal and the second rather more sociological. In this latter case, the theme of immigration features rather heavily, and while handled sensitively, seemed a little bit repetitive at times.

Having been there recently, it's a little bit hard to swallow the line that Sweden has lost its sense of egalitarianism and liberalism, certainly to the extent that the discussion in 'Fishing...' seems to suggest. Saying that, I did only get to see Stockholm, and as Brown relates, this may not be very representative.

I particularly enjoyed the pallet works sections, but one point does rankle; Brown compares a factory in the UK with the one in Sweden and paints the UK workers as rather lackadaisical - it's a bit of a cheap shot which suggests Brown's experiences in this field were less than extensive.
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