I really loved Eventide by Therese Bohman, translated from the Swedish by Marlaine Delargy. It’s a novel about the academic world, which always appeals to me, and it’s a smart look at life for a newly-single woman in her forties who is struggling to figure out what she wants out of life and what meaning the world has for her. It’s a dark novel — another thing I like — and a philosophical one and one that takes a close look at the experience of being a middle-aged woman.
Karolina is the protagonist; she’s in her early forties, newly single, and struggling to find equilibrium in her new life. She’s an art professor in Stockholm with a successful career, although currently her research isn’t going anywhere. Meeting a new graduate student promises to change that, though, as he has found new material about a turn-of-the-20th-century female artist that could shake up her research field. What happens with this research project and with Karolina’s relationships among the academics, critics, and artists who make up the Stockholm intellectual world form the basis of the rest of the plot.
Karolina spends a lot of time in this novel thinking — about work, relationships, sex, art, aging, feminism — and while her mind is a complicated, fraught place, I enjoyed following her thoughts. She is struggling and depressed, but still clear-sighted and sharp. I also like reading about women my age, even though she and I have very different lives — women who are figuring out what they think about their careers, their lives, their bodies, their relationships, at the time when fertility wanes, which can bring up complicated feelings, and one’s career is (often) established, which can also bring up complicated feelings. Karolina is a difficult, prickly character, and I liked her for exactly that reason.