The Scandinavians are regarded as Europe's most tolerant and peace-loving people. So how was it that one of the worst acts of political terror ever witnessed on this continent was committed by a Norwegian - against his fellow countrymen? Scandinavia is the epitome of cool: we fill our homes with cheap but stylish Nordic furniture; we envy their health-giving outdoor lifestyle; we glut ourselves on their crime fiction; even their strangely attractive melancholia seems to express a stoic, common-sensical acceptance of life's many vicissitudes. But how valid is this outsider's view of Scandinavia, and how accurate our picture of life in Scandinavia today?
Robert Ferguson digs down through two millennia of history to tell stories of extraordinary events, people and objects - from Norwegian Death Metal to Vidkun Quisling, from Agnetha Faltskog to Greta Garbo, from Lurpak butter to the Old Norse rune stones - that richly illuminate our understanding of modern Scandinavia, its society, politics, culture and temperament.