Every Tuesday, get to know a bit about the stories behind the books you love, and discover your next favourite novel.
Sabitha: Maria Bouroncle joins us to talk about her fascinating new-crime novel, It Came to Me on a Whim – The Story of Ingeborg Andersson, Child Murderess. We’re very lucky to have her, since this story was just published in English for us to enjoy! Maria, can you tell us about your book?
Maria: It Came to Me on a Whim tells the story of my great-aunt who killed her three children in a small Swedish village in 1929. The story and what happened that day was a well-kept family secret for seventy years. I stumbled upon it back in 1999, as one of my cousin’s patients asked if we were related to “that old murderess Ingeborg”. We both knew her very well as children, since Ingeborg lived with our grand-mother, but we had no idea she had been married or had any children, let alone three.
I was 34 years old at the time and had just given birth to my daughter. I simply couldn’t grasp the news. It wasn’t until my father passed away twelve years later that my thoughts of Ingeborg resurfaced. I finally decided to ask my relatives what happened, and I began digging through the archives.
Sabitha: I can’t imagine what that would feel like. Is that what inspired you to write this book?
Maria: It was never my intention to write a book about Ingeborg. However, after years of research to shed light on the tragedy and trying to understand how a woman I’d loved as a child could have committed such a horrific crime, I got truly obsessed with the story. It wasn’t until an old relative passed me the letters she wrote to her husband from prison that I knew I had to put her words on paper. I’ve included these letters in my book. In one of them, she writes, “I think about the children all the time and about you but forgive me I didnt know what I was doing O God if it could be undone.”
Sabitha: How did you choose the title? Is that part of the story?
Maria: When asked why she killed her children, Ingeborg simply replied, “It Came to Me on a Whim”.
Sabitha: What do you most want your readers to take away from reading your book?
Maria: Ingeborg was born in 1901. Her parents were farmers, and she was the second to youngest of seven siblings. She went to primary school for six years and when she was 23 years old, she got married to the boy next door, who was a relatively well-to-do farmer. Artur was seven years her senior and seems to have been a modern and kind man. Pretty soon after their beautiful wedding, they had three children together, two boys, and one girl. But Tor only lived to be five years old. Efraim was three and Lucia was only one year old when their mother killed them.
I’ve tried to capture this troubling story without too many gruesome details. By letting my narrative jump back and forth between different time periods, as Ingeborg’s thoughts probably did, I hope to put the reader inside her mind to understand her, just like I’ve tried to do. Despite the rigid structures of the prison, I also wanted to show the kindness of the staff who cared for her. I’ve dedicated my book to Tor, Efraim and Lucia, and it’s my sincere hope that Ingeborg’s story will bring mental health issues into the light.
Sabitha: Thanks for sharing your story—such a fascinating and tragic tale. We’re looking forward to reading! Where can the Night Beats community find you and your book?