Astrid Lindgren: The Woman Behind Pippi Longstocking

Astrid Lindgren is Danish critic and author Jens Andersen's (Hans Christian Andersen: A New Life) thoughtful biography of the Swedish writer. Lindgren came of age in the 1920s, at the start of an exciting period of new freedoms and opportunities for women and children, all of which would play out in her life.

At 16, she got her first job, with a local newspaper. Two years later, she was pregnant by her infatuated, overbearing boss. She refused to marry him, moved to Stockholm, and put her son in foster care while she took classes, found work and fought depression. She married and devoted herself to office jobs, her marriage and raising her children according to her own considerate and respectful ideas about them. When her husband had an affair and she won a major literary prize that included her first book publication, she re-evaluated her priorities and decided to live by the principle that "if you're going to be happy, it has to come from within, and not from another person." She began to write seriously.

Her first character, Pippi Longstocking, became an enormous international success in 1945. Pippi was the world's strongest child, rich, anti-authoritarian, self-sufficient and "a cheerful pacifist whose answer to the brutality and evil of war was goodness, generosity, and good humor." Andersen analyzes Lindgren's work in light of contemporary childhood development theories, and examines her later involvement in politics, her uneasy relationships with feminism and with fame. His biography matches the liveliness, energy and sensible idealism of his subject. --Sara Catterall

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