by Michael Booth
As I type on this keyboard, we’re in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, and so any book depicting the culture and lifestyle of a particular region probably needs a caveat: Was it written post-plague or pre-plague?
In The Almost Nearly Perfect People, British expat Michael Booth chronicles Scandinavia — but the Scandinavia of 10 years ago, which might be very different from the Nordic region post-plague.
At any rate, I’m of Nordic heritage (mostly Norwegian; some Swedish), so Booth’s travelogue-analysis was of special interest to me. Booth has been compared to Bill Bryson, but his book is less interested in Bryson-like humorous anecdotes and more about compare-and-contrast: How does Scandinavia stack up in relation to the rest of the world? What makes it unique?
Yesterday, I watched a news report about the one Western country that seems to be going against the grain in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. That would be Sweden, which will not surprise anyone who reads this book. According to the news story, the Swedes are apparently shrugging their collective shoulders about the virus while everyone else is taking drastic measures.
Are the Swedes showing the rest of us how to deal with a pandemic, just as they aspire to lead the way on gender equality and immigration? Or are they a nation of oblivious fools?
The Swede in me would like to believe the former; the Norwegian in me fears the latter.
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