She had, however, quickly grown accustomed to the pitying looks that said: “Women in their forties don’t dump their partner. You’ve really made a mess of things now.”
Karoline Andersson, art history professor at Stockholm University, has ended her 11 relationship with her partner, growing accustomed to living alone once again. In a period of ‘aimless confusion’, she meets a young post-graduate student Anton Strömberg whom brings to her attention a female artist Ebba Ellis, whose art was erotic, prolific and progressive for her time. Not only that, he claims to have letters and this could be a big break in the world of visual arts. Anton’s confidence is infectious, his youth alluring. Life once seemed to have a sort of purpose with her ex Karl, that soon became a sort of apathy. Now she is adjusting to loneliness and missing that which she shed. The time is ripe to forge ahead, to dig into her work. She’s always felt her best absorbed in her career, less ‘crowded’. There is competitiveness in her field, and she encounters the smug arrogance of one Lennart. Irritated that things require his interest and approval to be ‘worthy’ she is delighted when she has the upper hand with Anton.
Anton and Karoline’s interest in each other goes beyond the Ellis discoveries. Karoline feels illuminated by Anton’s attention, his youth awakens her, and the attraction between them is intoxicating. That he chose her, over all the younger women he could easily have, proves she isn’t immune to that flattery. If everything is a game, what is her position? Is she safe from deception, betrayal, humiliation? Trouble could follow being involved with someone so young.
This is a story about a woman who never had children, isn’t married and whose entire life has been about work over creating a family. A life of poorly chosen affairs with different types of men and feeling adrift, tired of games in career and her personal life. There is a distance, though, that Karoline feels with men and in many ways the reader too experiences in trying to understand why Karoline is so crushed by life. In her feelings of forced shame, for being unattached, one wonders why it has to be an issue for the rest of the world at all? Karoline opens her eyes, and ‘life goes on.’
It isn’t a novel to make you feel uplifted, and the young hate relating to women like her because they may well fear going through men and life on auto-pilot, aging out, being fooled, disappointed. Who wants to stew in that when you’re fresh with the blush of youth? As to the rest of us, a little more chewed on by the world, Karoline can seem somewhat familiar.
Publication Date: April 10. 2018