Review of Life is Swede – The Story of an Expat in Sweden

I love social experiments, it has to do with the three semester I spent as a Sociology major and my subsequent degree in American Studies but taking apart how people respond and react combined with how and why really makes me happy.

With that in mind I was very happy to share with you the blog Life is Swede when I was contacted by its ghost writer Claire Duffy. Here is the synopsis in her own words:

American ex pat Regan King moved to Stockholm this summer to be with her Swedish boyfriend Anders after a whirlwind romance, and has been blogging about her adventures and struggles to settle into Sweden.  

Her regular readers were startled at the beginning of September when the blog took an unexpected turn: one of Anders’ close friends was found murdered, and the police quickly zeroed in on him as the chief suspect.

Regan doesn’t exist.  She never did.

The project is an experiment in inviting an audience completely into a fictional world.  

Regan’s readers have been getting involved her in her life for months, advising her on how to handle her new life, sharing their stories of ex pat challenges and relationship woes – and now they are starting to guide her through a murder investigation in which she will soon find herself under suspicion.

It’s part thriller novel, part interactive game – and complete experiment.  Some readers were intrigued by the new twist, others felt betrayed to discover that Regan doesn’t exist when they had been concerned about her.

Not until recently was it revealed that Regan was not real, which I will say did not totally surprise me but that does not mean you cannot feel the honest and real emotions Claire has infused the story with.

In the post More than Words she wrote:

In fact, I heard them all singing as I lay down on the bed – that’s just come back to me.  It was something Swedish, all raucous and loud and you could imagine Vikings bellowing it as they drink tankards of mead on some far flung beach.  I remember thinking that they were all just waiting for me to leave so they could sing in Swedish, and feeling bitter – drunkenly, irrationally bitter.

The first time I read that part I actually get teary eyed because there was more than once in the two months in 2008 I spent in Sweden where I felt like that. Just so irrationally bitter and angry at people that I was me and they were them, it was not their fault or mine that we were separated by language but so many times I felt that they would be happy to have my just disappear and a new girlfriend for Mr. H to magically appear. In total honesty once we went to a party and I ended up hiding out in the bathroom crying because it was all just too much and all those horrible, hard and very true emotions are what make Life is Swede so great.

I highly recommend you check it out and The Grass is Dancing for the true life expat story of Claire.

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7 thoughts on “Review of Life is Swede – The Story of an Expat in Sweden

  1. I have to admit when I found out early on that Life in Swede was fictional after interacting with her as if she were real, I was one who felt betrayed. But I did see the beauty in the idea however I lost interest in reading it knowing it was fiction.

    Your perspective on it makes me regret that decision a bit. It is a very interesting concept and experiment and I do follow Claire’s real life blog.

  2. I would be fuming if I found out I’d been tricked like that. I sometimes wonder about what I read online, and how true it is, but I always assume that there is an element of realness to it. I would feel so betrayed if I found out someone had been having their audience on.

    • That was kind of my thinking, in fact. By writing as Regan I was able to be more emotionally honest than I am when I write as myself, in many ways.

      Some of the incidents (such as the one Bailie kindly pointed out above!) and feelings of vulnerability and isolation that Regan goes through are pretty autobiographical, but I wouldn’t have written about them on my own blog – for fear of offending the Swedes I later became friends with, or simply not wanting to get so personal – but in fiction, I could!

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