The Family


AUTHOR: Kjell Johansson


GENRE: Fiction

Vera and Ellen meet at the sausage factory in the Stockholm neighborhood of Södermalm, marry a pair of brothers, get divorced, and go on to create something of a new family together: Vera with daughter Sasja, Ellen with sons Sigvard and Folke. The bonds between them are strong but complicated; there is friendship and love as well as conflict and hate.

The family story also serves as a lens on an eventful and dramatic century. At the core of the novel and its protagonists is the question: what are we to do with our lives?

Kjell Johansson, beloved for his tender and unwavering portrayals of working class lives in 20th century Sweden, stays true to both setting and characters in all their fragility, insecurity, moral misgivings, and in their pursuit of truth and love.



“Kjell Johansson’s historical depiction is brilliant, as is his acute sensitivity for contemporary vernacular. /…/ As a whole, Johansson succeeds in forging a funny, sad, frightening and delightful connection to Sigvard as well as the whole family. Thus, The Family is not primarily a novel that, to quote to the jacket copy, relates ‘the dramatic 20th century’. It is a novel about life.”

Dagens Nyheter

“Kjell Johansson is an author with a great compassion for the adrift, the ostracized, the human debris that never really made it. Here is an impressive gray scale where evil and malice coexist with kindheartedness and benevolence. But above all, The Family belongs to the women. Vera, Ellen, and Sasja are literary characters that long linger on one’s mind and in one’s heart.”


The Family is a forceful and consistently radical book in this bleak, reactionary time. With The Family, Kjell Johansson has written a deeply moving novel that conveys and vividly depicts crucial insights and forgotten facts. /…/ The Family is powerful, it rattles and captivates, and through its plot and brilliant prose it forms a story that places it among the truly important novels. Once again, Kjell Johansson demonstrates that he is without a doubt one of our greatest and foremost authors. /…/ Kjell Johansson has written one of the best novels of the year. Which is to say: read it, don’t miss it. The Family is something as rare as a novel for everyone.”

Gefle Dagblad

“As always with Kjell Johansson, it is the bleak yet tender view of human tragicomedy that makes The Family such a gripping and challenging novel, in all its flickering, shadowy glory.”


”[Johansson] paints an unforgettable portrait of two working class mothers and their children.”

Svenska Dagbladet

The Family brings to mind Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels … It is an extraordinary class portrayal and family chronicle; as multi-faceted, rich, amusing, captivating and sad as life itself.”

Sydsvenska Dagbladet