Inger Edelfeldt’s Namnbrunnen (“The Well of Names”) is a collection of modern fairy tales (in the tradition of HC Andersen and Selma Lagerlöf, the author points out) loosely connected by a framework story of storytellers meeting on a town square and telling each other their tales.

The stories have a proper fairy tale feel to them, with princes, serving maids, talking animals and such, and mostly happy endings. But they also have a more modern, psychological angle – children hoping to gain their parents’ love by living up to their expectations; jealousy killing a loving relationship, etc.

The psychological theme gives each story an anchor, while the fairy tale layer gives it wonder and magic and a sense of tradition. The combination is full of some quite unexpected turns and many of the stories ended up someplace I hadn’t foreseen at all.

Edelfeldt tries to use a fairy tale language, too, which for her means about 19th-century Swedish. I found that contrived and a bit pompous to begin with, then got used to it, only to be occasionally jarred by some modern expression. On the whole I would have preferred a simpler and more even tone.

This is one of those books that I had mixed feelings about while reading it, but the longer I let it stew in my head, the better I like it. I’m already thinking of re-reading it – and of reading HC Andersen.

AdLibris.