From Publishers Weekly
Irene Beckman, a 56-year-old Copenhagen lawyer, embarks on a journey of self-discovery after her husband, Martin, takes up with a younger woman in Grøndahl's latest novel, a thoughtful, probing and fiercely introspective character study. The premise may be rather stale, but Beckman's intense, ironic response to her impending divorce makes for fascinating reading as she refuses to pass judgment on Martin, instead offering a running series of pithy analytical observations about their split: "Love is not a social democrat, Martin. It doesn't allow itself to be redistributed, it doesn't go in much for solidarity. You thought it did, didn't you?" Grøndahl's sardonic character writing sharpens some pedestrian plotting--Irene takes up with an old lover and deals with the effects of the divorce on her two children--but what distinguishes the novel is the final narrative spin in which Beckman learns that she is the result of a fling her mother, Vivian, had with a concert cellist. The tone shifts considerably during the chapters in which she tracks down Samuel Balkin, who describes his affair with Vivian and his subsequent marriage to a former concentration camp prisoner. The unexpected revelation of Beckman's Jewish background drives the unusual conclusion as Grøndahl delivers a series of entertaining and impressive insights about the unknowable nature of love and the partners we choose. (Apr.)
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The prolific Grondahl is one of Denmark's most respected and widely read authors. As he did in Silence in October
(2001). Grondahl here offers a penetrating examination of the shifting complexities of marriage. Successful divorce lawyer Irene Beckman, slim and stylish at 56, is snapped out of her settled existence when her husband, Martin, leaves her for another woman. Realizing that what she has regarded as her calm life was really just a kind of somnolence, she starts reexamining her relationships. She begins to feel that a piece of advice she heard in childhood ("If you don't say no to something, you have already said yes") has been the guiding principle of her life and a form of cowardice, resulting in a loveless marriage and a fraught relationship with her mother. When she learns a secret about her heritage, she sets off on a life-altering trip to Vienna, which brings her a renewed sense of purpose. Filled with philosophical ruminations and lyrical prose, this unusual novel moves in unexpected directions and at its own measured pace. Joanne WilkinsonCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved