x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Hanna the Maputo madam

A Treacherous Paradise is the story of Hanna Lundmark, a 17-year-old forced by poverty from her Swedish home in 1904

Having condemned his most successful creation, Sweden’s Inspector Kurt Wallander, to Alzheimer’s disease in 2009, Henning Mankell turns to the most baffling case of all in A Treacherous Paradise – the mystery of the human heart.

Forced by poverty from her Swedish home in 1904, 17-year-old Hanna Lundmark’s story is lightly dusted with magic realism and told in deceptively simple prose.

Hired as a ship’s cook on a voyage to Australia, she is twice-widowed and settles in Lourenço Marques, now Maputo, Mozambique’s capital, where her second husband has left her a brothel.

This makes her wealthy, but also ensures Hanna is shunned by the white community that frequents the bordello, while she is distrusted by the black employees she tries to help.

Hanna finds fortitude in her isolation and in the face of racism in the Portuguese colony.

When confronted by murder, she makes a decision that shocks the ruling whites, as love transforms Hanna Lundmark into Ana Negra.