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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Another Time, Another Life

Leif GW Persson

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To purchase Another Time, Another Life

Title: Another Time, Another Life
Author: Leif GW Persson
Genre: Novel
Written: 2003 (Eng. 2012)
Length: 404 pages
Original in: Swedish
Availability: Another Time, Another Life - US
Another Time, Another Life - UK
Another Time, Another Life - Canada
Another Time, Another Life - India
Sous le soleil de minuit - France
Eine andere Zeit, ein anderes Leben - Deutschland
Un altro tempo, un'altra vita - Italia
Otro tiempo, otra vida - España
  • The Story of a Crime
  • Swedish title: En annan tid, ett annat liv
  • Translated by Paul Norlen

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Our Assessment:

A- : very ambitious and largely successful -- and an entertaining and gripping read

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Publishers Weekly . 2/1/2012 .
The Times . 24/3/2012 Peter Millar

  From the Reviews:
  • "The authorís straightforward journalistic approach makes the historical events seem remote and unapproachable, akin to a documentary-style police procedural. But the look at the fictional individual detectives and their fates through the years enriches the story." - Publishers Weekly

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Leif GW Persson's Between Summer's Longing and Winter's End was an intricate thriller dominated by the 1986 murder of prime minister Olof Palme. This unsolved crime also throws its shadow over Another Time, Another Life -- but here it looms nowhere near as large. Nevertheless, one character asks another in the closing pages, once the crimes at hand have all been cleared up (one way or another ...): "You don't think he might have been involved in the Palme assassination ?" -- just to remind readers that this is what it's all about. Not just Persson's loosely connected trilogy, of which this is the middle volume, but also, far more generally, Swedish society and contemporary history: for Persson Palme's murder (and the circumstances surrounding it -- including, not least, the fact that no one has ever (properly) been brought to account for it) is the defining event in modern Swedish history. Nevertheless, Another Time, Another Life succeeds -- much better than Between Summer's Longing and Winter's End -- in no small part because the Palme-murder remains peripheral and a different set of crimes are central to the plot.
       Another Time, Another Life is, like its predecessor, a novel that spans a considerable amount of time as well as several crimes. It begins in April 1975, with the hostage-taking in the West German embassy in Stockholm by the German Red Army Faction -- the Baader-Meinhof terrorist group. It wasn't a very successful takeover: the terrorists accidentally detonated the explosives they had with them, and it was all over in less than a day. Among the police called to the scene that day was Bo Jarnebring; his close friend Lars Martin Johansson had taken the day off to tend to his two sick children. Both policemen figured in Between Summer's Longing and Winter's End -- and they figure in the later parts of this novel too, which jumps several times ahead to 'another time'.
       The next station is 1989, when a rather different murder is committed. The victim is Kjell Göran Eriksson, a man with a decent amount of money but few personal ties. No one seems to have much liked him -- he was: "an extremely unpleasant person" is the consensus opinion -- and no one seems too surprised that someone stuck a large knife in his back. The truly buffoonish officer put in charge of the investigation, criminal inspector Ewald Bäckström, is entirely convinced from the beginning that it's a gay get-together gone bad, and remains close to deaf and blind to any and all evidence to the contrary. There's little to suggests that's what it was beyond the fact that Eriksson didn't seem particularly interested in women -- but he didn't seem to be much interested in men, either, and his apartment, where he was killed, shows no signs of any sexual activity at all.
       Bäckström's subordinates, including young Anna Holt, are skeptical and think there's more to it, but the investigation founders, and then is more or less abandoned. In 1999 it resurfaces again. Some information has cropped up, linking Eriksson to the embassy takeover -- it was always clear the Germans had to have Swedish help, but apparently no one had dug too deep to find it. With the fall of the Soviet Union and its satellites a lot of East German information found its way to western intelligence organizations, and quite a few pieces began falling into place. Eriksson's role in the takeover was a small one -- but others were involved too, and suddenly, in 1999, the possible motives behind his murder begin to look clearer.
       Persson presents these various investigations very well, in particular in his handling of the politics behind so much of this. There's a strong police-procedural element to the novel, and specifically the investigations into Eriksson's murder, but it goes far beyond forensic procedure. Persson also nicely weaves in an intriguing political component, involving, among other things, Sweden's position between west and (former) east -- and its own little military-industrial complex (even over the last decade, Sweden has remained one of the world's top ten arms-exporting nations).
       The big jumps in time and the many significant figures complicate the presentation as Persson can't fully flesh out all the investigators: he is forced to fill in the details of the intervening years as he leaps from one decade to the next, rather than allowing their lives to simply unfold with the passage of time. Several characters, including Bäckström, are also dangerously close to caricature. Yet Persson's description of a flawed police force (where it's often easier to promote someone than to fire them) seems far more realistic than the too-good-to-be-true police departments (with the occasional bad egg) that dominate crime fiction.
       Persson's novel goes beyond mere crime-solving, too, and offers a fascinating view of Swedish society and government. There's also some nice humor throughout -- including Bäckström's perversely hilarious final triumph. Clearly, too, this is all part of something bigger: with the 1975 hostage-taking, for example, Persson introduces yet another piece of the Palme puzzle (as one of the many theories about the assassination is that the Red Army Fraction played a role in it). Persson handles the summary-history -- including the situation in 1975 as well as the collapse of East Germany -- well, too, finding the right tone and way of presenting it.
       All in all, this very ambitious work works very well; it's also a really good read, as Persson manages his pacing well over the decades and also brings the novel to a quite satisfying ending. Equally importantly, it certainly leaves the reader eager to learn how he will bring the trilogy to its conclusion. (The third volume, Free Falling, As If in a Dream, is slated for February 2014 publication in the US.)

- M.A.Orthofer, 25 March 2013

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Another Time, Another Life: Reviews: Leif GW Persson: Other books by Leif GW Persson under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Swedish author Leif GW Persson was born in 1945.

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© 2013-2021 the complete review

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