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A Treacherous Paradise

3.52  ·  Rating details ·  2,942 ratings  ·  482 reviews
From the internationally acclaimed author of the Kurt Wallander crime novels, a powerful stand-alone novel set in early-twentieth-century Sweden and Mozambique, whose vividly drawn female protagonist is awoken from her naïveté by her exposure to racism and by her own unexpected inner strengths.

Cold and poverty define Hanna Renström’s childhood in remote northern Sweden,
Hardcover, 384 pages
Published July 9th 2013 by Knopf (first published August 15th 2011)
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Average rating 3.52  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,942 ratings  ·  482 reviews

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Amy Warrick
Sep 10, 2013 rated it did not like it
I couldn't read this... got about a third of the way through and quit. This reads like a particularly dry biography; tough slogging.
At one point there is an incident in which the residents of this small African town, circa 1904 or so, hear that there is an iceberg visible from the harbor. They all go running down to look, but there's nothing there. This book is like that.
Kasa Cotugno
Henning Mankell is credited for being the first author of Scandinavian crime thrillers to reach an international audience (although he has credited Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo for his own inspiration). His Kurt Wallander series were notable due to his flawed and all-too-human detective with an incredibly strong backstory. Each novel in the series dispensed with the usual formula, and many had ties to other countries, several of them in Africa. Mankell's knowledge of and love for that continent ru ...more
May 22, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: e-audible
***3.5 Stars*** Henning Mankell writes a first-class, character based thriller and I've read many of those. This one has nothing to do with the Swedish detective, Kurt Wallander. It was still an interesting historical fiction based in Portuguese Africa (Mozambique) in the early 1900s. A Swedish woman was once the owner of one of the largest brothels in that area (according to some tax records). The author started with this little known fact and elaborated from there.

Henning divides his time betw
Mar 13, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: pre-ordered
Need to gather my reactions.......hard for me as HM is one of my favorite writers for many years and I never had this lack of enthusiasm before!
This book had such a flat lifelessness to it despite the story.

I had such a difficult time believing that a dirt poor country girl on the verge of starvation, in the space of very little time, could self educate herself and elevate herself sufficiently from her roots to maid, to cook on a ship, marry, be widowed, jump ship then wake up from an illness a
Jul 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Henning Mankell is one of my very favorites authors and I have read all of his Kurt Wallender series and several of his stand-alone novels. I couldn't wait to read this one translated and copyrighted on 2013, and I was not disappointed. This settings for this story are early twentieth century Sweden and Mozambique, where according to Henkell's biography, he divides his time.

The protagonist is Hanna Renstrom who lives in the harsh environment of northern Sweden. When conditins worsen and Hanna t
Victoria Moore
Jun 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I became so bewitched while reading Henning Mankell's novel "A Treacherous Paradise" I took my time as I neared the end, because I hoped the resolution would be a happy one. Based on a real person, the fictional protagonist Hanna Renstrom is a perpetually lost soul in a world full of rejection, prejudice and cruelty. Forced out on her own at a young age she endures an arduous journey that leads her from Sweden to Lourenco Marques, Beira and the unknown.
Set in the early 1900s she eventually bec
Mike Mitchell
Aug 06, 2013 rated it really liked it
I'm a pretty big fan of Mankell and I grabbed this expecting existential killers and gloomy detectives. None of that here. Instead, we get an engaging story of a young Swedish woman and her unlikely adventures in Africa at the turn on the century. After getting over the ire of my self generated bait and switch, I settled down and enjoyed the book. Unique and engaging, I'd recommend it to just about anyone. Just don't get your hopes up for Nordic psycho killers. ...more
Jan 14, 2021 rated it really liked it
A creative and unflinching expose on race relations in 1904's Africa disguised as a young Swedish girl's coming of age tale as she leaves her impoverished childhood home to find a life worth living abroad. Written with honesty, grace and sprinkled with humor, I found A Treacherous Paradise both thought provoking and immensely enjoyable. Four well deserved stars....

Mal Warwick
Oct 24, 2013 rated it liked it
Among the countless books and plays written by the masterful Swedish writer Henning Mankell are nine novels and one collection of five short stories about the life and work of a troubled police detective named Kurt Wallander in the town of Ystad, Sweden. The Wallander series, which has been produced on television both in Sweden and in the UK (starring Kenneth Branagh), is one of the best collections of crime novels I’ve read — and I’ve read a lot of them. But Mankell unaccountably set aside the ...more
Michelle Only Wants to Read
This is a good book I didn't like.

(view spoiler)
Jan 06, 2014 rated it liked it
Very different from the Wallander series, in structure, style, genre, everything. Writing seems sometimes childlike, perhaps to emphasize main character's simple view of life based on a limited life experience. Perhaps a simple style as a result of translation? Story deals with complex morality as seen thru the eyes of an 18 yr old woman from backwater Sweden. Each issue she confronts shapes her, as our life challenges shape us. Most of us can, I think, be grateful not to have to navigate the ro ...more
Feb 23, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014
Totally unconvincing.
June Ahern
Sep 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing
The story of Hanna Renstrom is a poignant adventure into the unknown.A A fictional account about a young woman rags to riches named Hannah. She is a fictional character in history that if a real person, people would be in awe of, or think she's a liar. I truly enjoyed this story. I read some reviewers say it was slow, didn't go anywhere, was muddled. To me, it was reflective writing. To stop and image how that might be for a young, uneducated country girl from Sweden who left home uncertain and ...more
David Highton
Jul 10, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A standalone novel by Henning Mankell set in 1905 Mozambique. Mankell inserted a role for Africa into several of his Wallender novels, but this portrays an earlier time with Portugese settlers lording over indigenous black Africans, to the shock and disquiet to a very young widow from the very north cold wastes of Sweden. A fascinating tale.
Jennifer S. Alderson
I am a fan of the Wallander series and wanted to read a book set in Mozambique for a Goodreads group challenge, so this book caught my eye.
It is an intimate portrayal of a young Swedish woman's eye-opening experiences, having landed quite unexpectedly in then-Portuguese East Africa. By chance Hanna ends up becoming the owner of a brothel and is confronted with a social and political system she, as a European outsider, has no real grasp of.
It is a sometimes gripping, often depressing, look at C
Margaret Wakeling
I can’t say I enjoyed reading this book in fact I found it quite distressing and uncomfortable- perhaps that was the point. Hanna’s journey from a poor rural Swedish area where her mother tells her to leave because she can no longer afford to feed her to brothel owner in Africa was a little difficult to believe and her relationship with Carlos was worrying to say the least. I won’t give the ending away but I thought it a little unsatisfactory.
Frederic Hunter
Aug 03, 2014 rated it it was ok
(Note to the reader: I am interested in fiction about Africa. I embarked on Henning Mankell’s A Treacherous Paradise because it was recommended to me as about Portuguese East Africa. I have not read any of Mankell’s Kurt Wallander mysteries that apparently have a devoted following.)
Swedish novelist Henning Mankell, who improbably spends half of each year in Maputo, Mozambique, came upon an improbable seed for a novel there. In the early 1900s the most lucrative brothel in Lourenço Marques, the c
Jan 23, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Three and a half stars. If I hadn't been thrown off reading "Treacherous Paradise" by the cover, at least the edition I read, I was hesitant to begin this book because I've read one of Mankell's Wallender series. They are great mysteries, but so dark. However, I ventured forth and discovered this is a "stand-alone" book about a young Swedish woman who is forced to leave her home because there aren't the resources to feed the entire family. Hanna Lundmark is hired as a cook aboard a ship bound fo ...more
Jun 17, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads
I received A Treacherous Paradise by Henning Mankell as a Goodreads First-reads giveaway winner. It was about a Swedish young woman, Hanna, who had to leave her home because her mother no longer had the resources to provide for her and there no opportunities for Hanna to improve her life where they lived. In 2 years she travels to many countries, discovers new cultures, different races, and learns about people and herself. She also goes from being very poor, to being very wealthy. It was an inte ...more
Jan 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I think that this was a different departure for Mr. Haskell, as I assumed that he wrote mainly mysteries.This was a fascinating tale of a Swedish woman sent into the world by her mother due to her families extreme poverty. She eventually winds up on a boat that is bound for Australia. She is hired as the cook and falls in love with a fellow mate and they marry.Their happy union is short lived and he dies of fever.He is buried at sea and Hanna is devastated.At the next port of call, she leaves th ...more
Margaret1358 Joyce
This book bars no punches - yet, it's lyrical, sensitive and powerfully carried off. There is clarity and beauty in the way Mankell delivers what is in fact quite an atrocious story: that of the experience of blacks under the power of colonial whites, in Portuguese East Africa in 1905.
The lens through which the reader sees and feels is the persona of Hannah, a young Swedish woman who unexpectedly finds herself 'there'. An amazing read with a strong call out for righteousness in what is now kno
May 09, 2015 rated it really liked it
I always enjoy reading Mankell and this time was no exception. I don't usually read historical fiction but I'll read anything that this Swedish author writes.

I loved his previous books set in Africa. It is through his stories and other writers' that I get a glimpse of what life was like in that Continent. I have limited knowledge about Africa so it's very educational for me when I indulge in a book which takes me to a journey through the unknown territory.

Mankell's story-telling is engaging, a
Jul 26, 2013 rated it did not like it
I wasn't really impressed with Mankell's writing or this story. His historical references felt off the cuff and unresearched, and he seemed to lean to heavily on modern political points of view. Also, his writing style was incredibly staccato, and I felt like it totally prevented the story from flowing--which didn't help its readability (or lack thereof). Too bad, the premise was quite promising and I was excited for this one. ...more
Stephanie Jane
Nov 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
See more of my book reviews on my blog, Literary Flits

Having been a tad underwhelmed by my first (and the first) Wallander novel, Faceless Killers, I have since steered clear of Henning Mankell books. However, a lack of choice at my last campsite book exchange meant that I decided to give him another try - especially when I realised that this particular story is historical fiction, not a crime novel. Inspired by a real woman about whom very little is known, Mankell has imagined the life of a you
May 09, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: reviewed
Despite their oddly flat prose (in least as rendered in English) and the generally dreary landscapes, the Kurt Wallander mysteries are among my favorite books. They are quite consistently rewarding, both in terms of the intricate, bizarre, but credible plots and the dour, depressive, dogged figure of Wallander himself. But I've rarely enjoyed Mankell's non-Wallander stories. They tend to be on the polemical side and, to my mind, lacking in narrative drive.

This new book, out in the summer of 201
Ann Sloan
Nov 28, 2013 rated it liked it
I wanted to like this, I really did. I have devoured Mankell’s Kurt Wallander novels, even watched Kenneth Branagh’s PBS versions (better than I expected). However, I just couldn’t.
Days after finishing it, some scenes came back to me, that is true. But, overall, I just couldn’t accept the premise. Set in the first decade of the twentieth century in Portuguese East Africa, now Mozambique, the novel doesn’t seem from that time; it feels more modern. Perhaps it is the translation. It is difficult t
Lori Eshleman
Mar 05, 2015 rated it liked it
A Treacherous Paradise by Henning Mankell In the opening chapters of A Treacherous Paradise, by Henning Mankell, a young woman leaves a life of desperate poverty in rural Sweden in 1904 to seek her fortune aboard a sailing ship set for Australia. The beginning took me back to my own grandmother’s flight from Sweden a few years later, in 1908. After reading this book, I felt more strongly the hardships and dislocation she must have faced, sent out as a servant at the age of twelve and then boarding a ship for a strange land at the ag ...more
Henning Mankell sets a humid and sultry scene - Mozambique in the early 1900s, a young woman forced out into the world who lands in a territory so foreign it couldn't be more at odds with her early life. The tale crackles along a pretty hefty pace and for me that it partly its problem. We are presented with a woman of tenacity and courage but just where she acquired these attributes is not clear. So just accept that she is - tenacious and courageous. As a character in her time, Hannah is pretty ...more
My main familiarity with Mankell is as the man who brought eloquence to the basic thriller,through the telling of his stories, with beautifully his flawed, human characters. For that reason, I picked this book off the shelf. For the mystery and glimpse into a different world that the jacket blurb promised, I decided to read it.

Set in Portuguese Africa (Mozambique) in the early 1900's, Mankell's novel is based on one true fact he had learned: a Swedish woman was once the owner of one of the large
Steven Langdon
Aug 25, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: super
Henning Mankell, a perceptive author with a sure sense of plot yet a focus on character, has begun in recent years to write about Africa as well as Sweden. This novel is his best yet in this new context.

This is in part because it is based on historical fact of a remarkable sort -- the lucrative ownership of the most profitable brothel in colonial Mozambique by a mysterious Swedish woman. Mankell builds a compelling plot of passions, racial conflicts and murderous betrayals tied to this.

Even mo
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Henning Mankell was an internationally known Swedish crime writer, children's author and playwright. He was best known for his literary character Kurt Wallander.

Mankell split his time between Sweden and Mozambique. He was married to Eva Bergman, Swedish director and daughter of Ingmar Bergman.

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