The Emigrants-series, by Vilhelm Moberg
Vilhelm Moberg is one of the greatest Swedish writers ever. His epic of Swedish emigration to the United States is considered one of his best works. It includes The Emigrants (1949, tr. 1951), Unto a Good Land (1952, tr. 1954), The Settlers (1956), and The Last Letter to Sweden (1959, tr. 1961). Other interesting books by Moberg are Memory of Youth, Ride This Night!, A Time on Earth, and When I Was a Child .
Two films based on these novels, The Emigrants (1970) and The New Land (1972), appeared in 1973. They were directed by Jan Troell. Among Moberg's most well known plays are Our Unborn Son (1945) and Fulfillment (tr. 1953). Moberg also wrote A History of the Swedish People (2 vol., 1920-76, tr. 1972-73).
The Emigrants, by Vilhelm Moberg
The Emigrants (Utvandrarna) is an epic work of historical fiction. This beautifully written book of historical fiction was first published in the early nineteen fifties and met with rave reviews at the time.
The focus in The Emigrants is on the family, relatives, and friends of Karl Oscar Nilsson. Karl Oskar Nilsson grew up in Smaland, Sweden. He was a peasant farmer who unceasingly worked his farm, only to find that, no matter what he did, he could not progress and would continue to live on the cusp of total poverty. Seeing no other way out, he, as so many others from the Scandinavian countries, gathers up his family and friends in order to take the monumental step of making a fresh start by emigrating to the United States of America.
We witness first hand the set backs the Nilsson family encounters in Sweden, and learn to understand how they could be willing to take such a big and consequential decision. We learn, as well, to understand the Swedish social and religious mores of the time, and thus the impact that they have on people.
Karl Oskar finds himself leading a band of likeminded people, all leaving for different reasons and with different expectations. This is the story of their experiences in Sweden, and their dangerous crossing aboard an overcrowded schooner.
The Emigrants is the story of the first leg of their journey: Their lives in Sweden, the motives for the huge decision they each made, and their tough sea voyage across the Atlantic. It is a book about hardship and struggle, and it is a great work of historical fiction. Vilhelm Moberg did considerable research into the subject and the result sheds important light on the exodus from Scandinavia in general and Sweden in particular.
You can also order Vilhelm Moberg's books from amazon UK (the pictures of the books link to amazon US): The Emigrants (Emigrant Novels), Unto a Good Land (The Emigrants, Book 2), The Settlers (Emigrant Novels) and The Last Letter Home (Emigrant Novels). Also, amazon UK carries A History of the Swedish People: From Prehistory to the Renaissance v. 1 and A History of the Swedish People: From Renaissance to Revolution v. 2.
The Last Letter Home, by Vilhelm Moberg
This final book in the series, The Last Letter Home, (Sista brevet till Sverige) deals with years of wars - the years of the American Civil War and the Indian wars. Through the letters of the immigrants to home Moberg shows how their ties to old country gradually loosen - their language become a mixture of Swedish and English.
The Swedish settlement is improving, there is church and school. A new community has been created. But their existence is not secure. American is fighting American, and in their of state, the Dakota Indians become tired of the treatment they are receiving at the hands of the United States and rise to drive out the white people from the soil of their fore-fathers.
And people have died. Robert - the gold digger who never found any gold, and others. The first settlers are old and dying. Karl Oscar agonizes over whether or not to join in the defense of his new country. Karl Oscar still writes letters to Sweden, but less and less often. And he talks more and more of a new life and a new country. The immigrants have been changed by America. The Last Letter Home follows tthe emigrants up to where the new generation grows up and becomes Americans.
As in the other books, the characters are real - human and fragile- and the reader experiences pain, suffering and pleasure with them. It is a wonderful series, a monument of an historical novel, and an exceptionally great series to read, and The Last Letter Home gives it the ending it deserves.
You may also want to read about the history of Norwegian emigrants in the wonderful Rolvaag's Giants of the Earth.