Gunnel Beckman The Times Literary Supplement - Essay

The Times Literary Supplement

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Gunnel Beckman's new book [Mia, published in the United States as Mia Alone,] is outstanding less for its nuances and artistry, though these are present, than for its willingness to look fearlessly and with compassion at the terrible moral problems with which liberal thinking on sexual freedom can confront the young. Like Mrs Beckman's earlier books (Admission to the Feast and A Room of his Own) Mia is very far from being a documentary novel of the dry conventional kind; everything she writes is informed not only with fact but with abundant feeling. Here her heart is with Mia, a sixteen-year-old who has slept with her boyfriend and who discovers to her horror that her period is long overdue. Lesser writers than Mrs Beckman might have allowed Mia's self-absorption with her physical state and its practical as well as emotional problems to obscure the picture of the family of which Mia herself is a treasured part. But this is a portrait of a Swedish family, itself on the brink of collapse—so that, in sorting out her own problems (one of which is concerned simply with getting enough money to have a pregnancy test), Mia must also cope with the distress of her mother and father over their failing marriage and decide whether she can add her anxiety to theirs. Mia's anguish over the moral dilemma of abortion, and her agonizing over the decision whether to go through with pregnancy and an over-early marriage, pregnancy and single parenthood, or pregnancy and adoption are always painful and thought-provoking. It may all look easy in Nova and Cosmopolitan, but anyone who reads Mia's story and suffers with her will emerge saddened, exhausted and closer to the truth.

"Teenage Problems," in The Times Literary Supplement (© Times Newspapers Ltd. (London) 1974; reproduced from The Times Literary Supplement by permission), No. 3785, September 20, 1974, p. 1003.∗