A hunky Swedish physicist and a seductive Slovenian architect struggle to overcome their troubled pasts and find love in this first installment of an international romantic series.
Swedish Christer Sandersson, a brilliant quantum physicist and charmer, splits his time between the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia, Illinois, and a professorship at the University of Chicago. Separated from his children and their mother, the rich and ruthless Pernilla, who have remained behind in Sweden, Sandersson obsesses over the strange behavior of neutrinos in recent experiments. Researchers have observed the subatomic particles breaking the speed of light, defying Einstein’s theory of relativity, and upending modern physics. Meanwhile, on holiday in Austria, Sandersson finds his heart captured by the enigmatic, sensuous Sasha, a Slovenian architect with a troubled past. They abandon themselves to a wild affair that Sandersson, now painfully vulnerable, hopes will lead to the altar. Continuing his mesmerizing research, Sandersson suspects that an unknown force in the human psyche may determine the behavior of neutrinos, and even reality itself. He devises a radical experiment at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, whose results leave observers speechless. As he gropes his way toward a new theory and Sasha assails his heart, he descends ever deeper into the rabbit-hole mysteries of subatomic life where Einstein himself threw up his hands. Despite his gifts as a physicist and lover, however, Sandersson the narrator often falls short—his spotty English mars the text. Phrases such as, “I only watched her, with my hearth in my throat” and a character “whipping away her tears” distract from an otherwise compelling tale. Nevertheless, Bergström anchors our interest almost unfailingly with two of the most intriguing questions known to humanity: What is the nature of reality? And how does observing affect the observed?
Though marred by linguistic missteps, this heady mix of luminous minds, scarred psyches, wild passion, and universal mysteries make Bergström’s novel a solid debut.