The Princess (abridged)

By: Gunnar Mattsson

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In 1960's Finland, writer Gunnar Mattsson meets a young nurse who has been stricken with Hodgkin's disease and has only been given a short time to live. Even though logic tells him to stay away, something draws him to her anyway. Gunnar and "The Princess," as he dubs her, soon marry in spite of her seeming death sentence. Her fondest wish had always been to have a child, and when she becomes pregnant, she ceases her treatments for fear that they will harm her baby. What follows is a miraculous story of love and the triumph of the human mind and spirit over adversity.


I found the Reader's Digest anthology which contains this story in a box of old books, and decided to read The Princess partly because it fit a reading challenge I was working on and partly because it sounded interesting. I usually like true stories about individuals who overcome challenges in their lives and being a romance novel addict, I'm particularly fond of true love stories too. This condensed version of The Princess partially fit the bill on both counts. It is a memoir of the author's relationship with his wife who he refers to as "The Princess" and her battle with and miraculous recovery from Hodgkin's disease. It is indeed a story about the indomitability of the human spirit and how love really can overcome all. It appears that the author credits their love for one another and his wife's adoration of the child she gave birth to in the midst of her health crisis as the driving factors in her recovery.

I really liked the story, but my main problem with this shortened version is that the editors seemed to pare it down to bare-bones facts. I just couldn't seem to help wanting to know more, most importantly, what would compel a man to propose marriage to a woman who had been told she was going to die in a matter of a few short months and also what would make her accept and then be eager to have a child. It seemed from the cover blurb that this would be a fascinating love story, but I suspect it may have lost some of it's poignancy in the editing process. I guess this isn't too surprising considering that this story is only ¼ the size of the original book. I'd never read a Reader's Digest condensed version before, but this one left me with several unanswered questions and simply wanting a bit more. I can say that it at least peaked my interest in trying to find the original version of The Princess, and I will certainly complete the remaining stories in the anthology just to see if they all feel like something is missing. I also discovered that a movie was made based on the book, which might be interesting to search out as well. This abridged version of The Princess is found in the Reader's Digest Condensed Books - Vol. III, 1967 anthology.


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