Review by

Wilful Disregard

Love, in theory

Ester Nilsson, respected poet and writer, has spent too much time being an intellectual and too little being a human. Everything changes when she falls head-over-heals in love with successful artist Hugo Rask. But how will Ester reconcile her critical/analytical brain with her biological urges? And what are Hugo’s intentions? Is he looking for love or just someone to stroke his ego? I was engrossed by Andersson’s intelligent and wickedly funny portrayal of the nature of relationships. A book for anyone who has loved without being loved back.

The normally rational, analytical Ester dumps long-term partner Per without batting an eye-lid and dives head first into Hugo’s arms. Intellectually, Ester is more than a match for Hugo and their first meetings are spent in deep discussions, the best aphrodisiac of all. She feels she has found the man of her life, but what about Hugo?

Hugo never followed up on anything Ester said. Ester always followed up what Hugo said. Neither of them were really interested in her but they were both interested in him.

Lena Andersson’s wise reflections around courtship, love and relationships reminded me of Spanish author Javier Marias’ writing. You’ll nod in recognition, cringe with embarrassment and laugh out loud at the levels of shame to which someone desperately in love is willing to stoop. Meanwhile Ester’s ‘girlfriend chorus’ chimes on in the background, giving her all the sensible advice in the world, most of which falls on deaf ears. Andersson evaluates body language, the choice of words, the politics of phone calls, every little minute detail in the game of love.

Of all the comments he could have made this was the worst, because everything in existence wants to live and hope is no exception. It is a parasite. It lives and thrives on the most innocent of tissue. Its survival lies in a well-developed ability to ignore everything that is not favourable to its growth while pouncing on anything that will feed it and help it to live on.

I could quote many more gems from this book, but I’ll let you read it instead. In the meantime, I’ll get hold of my next Lena Andersson book. Can’t wait!

Wilful Disregard is translated by Sarah Death and published by Picador, 208 pages.

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