- Author: Camilla Sten
Book online «The Lost Village Camilla Sten (most recommended books TXT) 📖». Author Camilla Sten
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For Anna, who believed in this book long before I dared to myself
When I first set out to write The Lost Village, I wanted to write a book just for me—a book I would enjoy writing. I never expected it to be more than a fun exercise, a way to get back to the thrill of writing after the slog of attempting to write a “serious literary novel” (which, as it turns out, is really not my genre).
Of course, things are never that simple. A book is, at the end of the day, always a reflection of its writer. Things you never intended to write about sneak into the story, worm their way into the text, and at the end of the day you’re sitting with a very different book than you thought you were writing.
Don’t get me wrong—it was still very, very fun to write.
The Lost Village is a book about a lot of things—isolation, fear, the terrifying power of groupthink, and how desperation can drive us to do things we never thought we’d stoop to. It is a thriller about a small, isolated, abandoned town and the horrors that take place there. But it’s also a book written by a former psychologist-to-be (hi!) and, more importantly, someone who for years struggled with depression (hi, again!). And maybe more than anything, it is a book about how society views women suffering from mental illness.
We perceive women suffering from mental illness with a sort of paradoxical double-sidedness; both victims and monsters, simultaneously infantilized and feared. A certain level of dysfunction is accepted—after all, women who are suffering mild depression and starving themselves aren’t going to leave their husbands or start revolutions, which is very practical indeed.
But beyond a certain point, it flips. Women are supposed to be gentle, devoted, loving and—above all else—rule-abiding. Undeniable suffering is bad, and anger is worse. A woman suffering from severe anxiety or untreated mania isn’t going to have dinner on the table by 6 o’clock. No longer is she fulfilling that crucial, limited role she’s expected to fulfill. No longer can she be a dutiful daughter, a picture-perfect wife, a devoted mother.
Throughout history, women suffering from mental illness have been hidden away, burned at the stake, lobotomized, and sterilized. I’m incredibly grateful I’ve been born into a time and context where my depression was viewed as a treatable illness, where I had access to the necessary care and the kind of support system that allowed me to eventually make a full recovery. But I’m also very aware that still, today, that is not the case for many people; that I am very privileged, and that my privilege had a huge part in my recovery.
Everything from degree of severity, to social status, race, level of financial stability, and ability to seek health care has an impact on not only how mental illness is treated, but how it is perceived. We view a depressed upper-class woman from a stable family background dealing with depression as “having the blues,” while the homeless woman on the street corner battling auditory hallucinations is a thing to be feared, a threatening monster. Not a person in need of help. Not someone with thoughts, dreams, fears, and needs of their own. Not a fully formed human being with agency and identity, suffering from an illness and doing their best to function as well as they can.
There are three female characters in the book suffering from mental illness, and they are all perceived and treated differently. One of them has recovered, one is in recovery, and one was never given the chance. They are neither victims nor villains. They are just people, with differing needs and levels of functioning.
Recovered, in recovery, or struggling, we are still people. Sometimes that truth can feel like a fever dream. Writing this book helped me to accept that, my own undeniable humanity even while sick, filtered through the kaleidoscope of my own fictional characters. I hope it can do the same for someone else.
Or that you just enjoy the thrill and horror of the story.
That’s the lovely thing about books, isn’t it?
You can take whatever you want from it.
August 19, 1959
It was a stiflingly hot August afternoon, so much so that the breeze coming in through the open windows did almost nothing to lift the swelter inside the car. Albin had taken off his hat and was dangling his arm out of the window, careful not to let his hand brush against the searing-hot body of the car.
“How far now?” he asked Gustaf again.
Gustaf simply grunted. Albin took this to mean that he should check the map himself if he was so desperate to know. He already had. The village they were driving to was a place he had never been to before. Too small for its own police station, even its own hospital. Barely more than a hamlet.
Silvertjärn. Who had even heard of Silvertjärn back then?
Albin was about to ask Gustaf if he had ever been there before, but then thought better of it. Gustaf wasn’t talkative at the best of times, that much Albin had gathered. For almost two years now they had been working together on the force, and in that time Albin hadn’t been able to get more than a few words out of him on any one subject.
Gustaf slowed down slightly and looked at the map between