A delicate net of intermingled lives underpins this witty, spirited novel about creating: art, love, self-sufficiency, and identity.
Øyehaug’s (Knots, 2017) first novel translated into English, by Dickson in able and deceptively straightforward prose, follows a clutch of loosely connected women pursuing their artistic visions and contending with distraction, most notably the lack, presence, or loss of love. There’s Sigrid—a literature student, “the kind...who has photographs of literary theorists on her wall”—who's beset by all three. Earnest and lonely, Sigrid has just discovered the poetry of Kåre, whose author photo she longingly rubs her cheek against just before chancing upon Kåre himself while on a walk. Caught in the reflected glare of Kåre’s fantasies, Sigrid is blinded to her work and their incompatibilities, not least among them Kåre’s absorption in his ex-girlfriend Wanda, a bassist who hides her insecurity behind a badass exterior. Next there’s Linnea, a young film director scouting locations and wistfully hoping to reunite with a past lover, whose primary connection to the others seems to be through Sigrid’s essay in progress about the prevalence in film of women in oversized men’s shirts. There’s Wanda’s friend Trine, a provocative performance artist and new mother who suddenly finds her methods and very drive for creation called into question. And finally, there’s Elida, the fishmonger’s daughter, also a literature student, who may be enmeshed in a fairy tale coming true. Rich with literary references and knowing authorial winks, is this “a perfect picture of inner life,” our fractured, contradictory desires, our cinematic fantasies, our melodrama and unassuageable aloneness? One of Øyehaug’s many gifts is to induce readers to gently laugh along with her at her characters, helping us, as we see our own absurdities in them, to gently laugh at ourselves.
If it isn’t precisely perfect, it’s awfully damn close.