Siri (2011)

“Mama, I am not made for a quiet home with the smell of roses! I need battles to be happy!”

Those are the words Baroness Siri von Essen expresses, one year after meeting the author August Strindberg, when she tells her horrified mother about her sudden break-up from husband and children and everything common convention demands. Siri wants to become an actress, it has always been her burning passion, ever since she was a little child. But as a baroness, and particularly one married to a captain of the guards, she can of course under no circumstances enter the stage.

Siri von Essen really does leave everything behind in order to lead her new marriage and life with August Strindberg. She is welcomed into the circle of authors, artists and actors around Strindberg, and manages, despite the social conventions to, establish an acting career within the national royal theatre, Dramaten.
But she never receives her mother’s blessing. And as far as ‘battles’ are concerned, Siri would soon have more than she could reasonably have wished for.

Lena Einhorn describes a strong woman with an appetite for life, a woman who dares to break with the social rules of her time, and especially those of her own class.

Siri von Essen’s marriage to August Strindberg will eventually be her misfortune and her friend Marie David has an important role in bringing the relationship to an end. The novel follows two parallel time-levels: one describing the couple’s rising passion, the other the heart-rending divorce.

Press voices

“Lively and engaging about Siri von Essen.”
Länstidningen Östersund

“Einhorn has written a sad, beautiful story.”

“Love that stings.”

“Well-known drama elegantly told” “Einhorn gives new life and a new approach to these two personalities, strained to the point of breaking. We are familiar with the story, but her psychological interpretation and the reader are held in a firm grip. Love and common dreams about a life of equality – as she writes to her mother, Siri was not intended for a quiet peaceful home, but needs conflict to be happy, and then there is August who promises: I shall move all the rocks out of your way – and the downward spiraling into a world continuously worn down by August’s distrust.”
Sundsvalls Tidning

“Emotional landslides around Siri von Essen/…/ The role of women must have looked entirely different during the latter half of the nineteenth century, but much is still the same and the book speaks straight to my heart.”

“Thank you Lena for bringing Siri out into the light! /…/ The story is well known but usually told from the perspective of the author August. But Lena Einhorn sees it through the eyes of Siri. She does this with the help of available sources, like letters and diaries, but it never becomes dry or boring. Lena Einhorn is a good storyteller who does not complicate things and who moves the story forward in a way that feels contemporary while at the same time is colored with the hues of days gone by. In addition, she emphasizes everyday life in a way that we rarely connect with August and his world.”
Norra Västerbotten

“Beneath the controlled prose are glimpses of a slightly furious poetry, formulations as sharp as knives” /…/ “Nevertheless, the novel about Siri von Essen is so gripping and well written that I want to bang my fist on the table. From happiness of course. Particularly because of the craft. It is so solid that you don’t care one iota if there are events that might have been interpreted one way or the other, and might have been fabricated. It’s that thing about poetic license, the author’s right of interpretation taking precedence.”
Helsingborgs Dagblad

“A novel by a thoroughly well read, open and curious author” /…/“Perhaps this is also the Siri von Essen who affects us the most, the one who dares give up everything despite narrow conventions in order to try out, with all her senses, that better life.  The one who is often disappointed, betrayed, manipulated, but also hardly above manipulation and persuasion herself if need be. Here Siri is as difficult to shake as a real good Stindberg play, like Creditors or The Father. In the power game but also in the desperate fight for what you believe in or at least so strongly long for.”

“Einhorn convinces and brings to life /…/ Here Lena Einhorn expands the biographical story with interesting testimonials. Siri herself chose to give up the stage in order to live her life with her children under small circumstances and to help educate young up-and-coming actors. Einhorn affirms her choice by portraying her life as a good one. This also is a part of the book’s strength and what makes it worth reading.”

“A powerful drama” /…/“Lena Einhorn skillfully builds a convincing psychological study of two people who seem to be made for each other, but she naturally reserves her sympathies for Siri, who exchanges a prison for a lunatic asylum.”
Dagens Nyheter

“And yet Siri is such a captivating story that you devour the book in one sitting. I am convinced that Einhorn’s novel debut will have a large readership, even if it is as biography, and not fiction that this novel grips you.” Norrköpings Tidningar

“[Siri] grows, and the reader grows with her. Astonished at the luminescent foolishness of this once so utterly wellbehaved woman, and the gigantic small-mindedness of the virtuoso grand author…As a feminist call to arms, a new A Madmans Defense, Siri is outstanding.”
Svenska Dagbladet

“It is an extremely interesting personality portrayed by an author who has almost everything one could wish for. Lena Einhorn blows life and soul into her characters, she manages to make her settings real, wind, smell and atmosphere. She not only grabs hold of her reader, she changes his life, thoughts and person. It is big, I don’t know anyone in this land who is bigger.”
DAST Magazine

“Nineteenth century Stockholm is distinctly alive in Einhorn’s descriptions of streets and quarters, and the then so much more vulnerable life conditions are perceptibly close.”

Einhorn recreates this well-known drama in a fashion that, despite the tragedy, makes one utterly elated. The elegance of the language is not unlike Strindberg’s… Einhorn gives new life and perspective to these two temperaments, stretched to the breaking-point. We know the story, but she is in complete control of her psychological interpretation, as she is of her reader.”
Nya Wermlands-Tidningen

“Einhorn can really tell a story. It is a fascinating read, from the first page to the last.”
Uppsala Nya Tidning

“Einhorn has written a sad, beautiful story. In this era of purported freedom of choice this novel shows that society and the times we live in always color human relationships, always cut into the flesh.”
Hallands Nyheter

“Between sicknesses and dreams, magnificent theatrical reviews and wild literary successes, we follow Strindberg’s emotional sinus curves, and watch him turn his back when Siri needs him the most. We get to watch her position slowly approach that of the individualist, and cry inside at the toughness that, because of the times, had to accompany liberation. She does it with finesse, Lena Einhorn. And the Siri she portrays is here to teach us not only to choose, but also to turn down.”
Västerbottens Folkblad

Sweden (Norstedts)

Estonia (Eesti Raamat)