A perceptive novel about early-middle-age angst as an art history professor realizes the constraints on her sexual and professional lives.
Karolina Andersson seems to have, if not the perfect life, at least a lot more to be contented with than to be dissatisfied over. She’s a professor at the University of Stockholm and has a rich intellectual life as well as interesting colleagues. But, now in her early 40s, she’s coming off a failed long-term relationship and feels restless and disaffected. Lacking self-confidence, Karolina feels herself floundering and wanting “to make life seem not quite so pointless,” so she begins to focus on Anton Strömberg, a graduate student whose research she’s supposed to supervise. Ironically, she’s never met him because he’s been spending time in Berlin trying to track down information on his dissertation subject, Ebba Ellis, an obscure Swedish artist who spent much of her career in Germany. Unexpectedly and abruptly, he shows up in Stockholm to introduce himself to Karolina, and despite her initial antipathy, she starts to find herself drawn to him, at least in part because he is everything Karolina is not—young, brash, and self-assured. Eventually, they have a brief but intense sexual encounter, a connection that Karolina knows is not wise, though she can’t seem to help herself. Karolina’s personal and professional crises intersect with even greater intensity when she realizes Strömberg might be faking some elements of his research, and she wonders whether he’s trying to manipulate her. Bohman (The Other Woman, 2016, etc.) is an adroit novelist with deep insights into the mind and heart of Karolina, a complex character whose restlessness, irresolution, and search for meaning make every one of her actions, both hesitancies and uncertainties, plausible and psychologically rich.
Intelligent, impassioned, and compelling, Bohman's latest explores complex inner worlds with great sensitivity and insight.