The Gravity of Love by Sara Stridsberg

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I began Sara Stridsberg’s The Gravity of Love, a story about a Swedish psychiatric hospital*. What I got was a mesmerizing, beautifully written and sometimes alarming story, told predominantly through the eyes of thirteen-year-old Jackie, the daughter of one of the hospital’s patients, Jim. Jim is an alcoholic with a suicide-wish –

‘He has made up his mind to die, again. He announces it, in so many words, as soon as he comes through the door… “I don’t want to be old, Jackie. There’s nothing left to live for.” He has come to Stockholm to say goodbye…  and asked for my blessing; and I have given it to him because I generally give him what he asks for. I have always been silenced by his presence, all thought inside me erased.’

The narrative moves back and forth in time and throughout, there’s an ethereal quality to the writing. Vignettes – of twilight hours, a fur coat, a broken string of beads, a curiosity shop, a doctor who may be as mad as his patients, and trees in the park – are stitched together with Stridsberg’s tremendously lovely words.

‘The stars seemed to have slipped slightly in the sky, and in the darkness we hear the ocean’s breathing, which never stops, the heavy waves beating against the shore before they draw back into the deep.’ Continue reading

Wilful Disregard by Lena Andersson

Ester Nilsson, the main character in Wilful Disregard by Lena Andersson, is either a complete nut or very, very normal. I still haven’t quite decided.

“The dreadful gulf between thought and words, will and expression, reality and unreality, and the things that flourish in that gulf, are what this story is about.”

The story is simple – 31-year-old Ester is in a content relationship with Per. She’s asked to give a lecture on famous artist, Hugo Rask. Hugo is in the audience, Ester has a fan-girl moment and then leaves Per – because she’s suddenly in love with Hugo. Hugo doesn’t give a toss about Ester, not truly, but in an all-too-familiar scenario, his indifference doesn’t deter her. The story reveals the excruciatingly shameful, truthful details of Ester’s actions and feelings. Continue reading

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

I made a spectacle of myself when I finished A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman. I was on the bus and read the final page a minute before my stop. I was crying. There was snot involved. As I got up to get off the bus, I called out my usual “Thank you!” to the bus driver and it came out as a strangled, choked cry. Because of the tears. And snot. And I couldn’t see properly through all those tears and I stumbled down the bus steps like an absolute lunatic. So yes, A Man Called Ove is really, really good.

It’s a simple story, centered around cranky old Ove. He’s described as a man who “…checks the status of all things by giving them a good kick” and carries himself  “…in that particular way of a middle-aged man who expects the worthless world outside to disappoint him.” Not surprisingly, Ove is very set in his ways –

“It was thirteen years since Ove bought his blue Saab 9-5 Estate. Not long after, the Yanks at General Motors bought up the last Swedish-held shares in the company. Ove closed the newspaper that morning with a long string of swear words that continued into a good part of the afternoon. He never bought a car again.” Continue reading