Weyer förlag, 2015.
Reviewed by Anna Paterson in SBR 2015:2
Review Section: Fiction - Adult
Sund is a sequel to Tove Folkesson’s first book, a young adult novel called Kalmars jägarinnor that is memorable for the way the writing shifts between bubbling enthusiasm and lyricism as it follows the schoolgirl Eva and her friends, who together make the decorous city of Kalmar a little less safe.
At first, Sund (as in ‘straits’, here between Kalmar and the island of Öland) reads as Eva’s charmingly narcissistic account of her attempts to create something exciting out of her post- school life. The inevitable stumbling- stones in her path are easy to spot, from her unquestioning self-belief as a poet and a singer – ‘my fire is as great as Strindberg’s’ – to her unexpected vulnerability and the indifference of the world at large. Not that she cares much about the world at large, in which almost everyone is so totally dull. Her story turns into a catalogue of acts of rebellion, all minor but quite fun:travelling to Cuba, joining groups to learn about various forms of self-expression and attaching herself to a series of gurus. Most of this takes place in and around Stockholm, where Eva has gained a coveted place on an architecture course (she chucks it in). She is on her own, because her friends have gradually settled in jobs and relationships (boring). Whenever Eva returns, in body or in spirit, to her much loved home territory, Öland, and the people she knows there, the writing becomes more complex and, often, intensely lyrical.
So far, the book is a smooth follow-up for slightly older young adults, amusing and weightless. But dark shadows begin to fall: Eva’s song demos are rejected, her unemployment benefit is terminated and the jobs in cafés and nurseries are temporary and charmless. One by one, her ideals fail her and the tone of the writing sharpens as irony replaces enthusiasm; some of the funniest passages describe the fading out of the eco-collective that for a while provided her with an eccentric home- life. Homelessness in the summer is a tough but liberating adventure, but as autumn draws in she has to find a cheap flat and yet another pointless barista job. For comfort, she seeks out a new guru, a woman who has set up shop as a ‘lifestyle coach’.Eva wants to learn to live mindfully by The Book, which in her case is Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist, but it is not easy. Worst of all, the coach turns out to be a ruthless mind-bender, sucking the will to live from her ‘clients’ as well as their money, and Eva’s humdrum existence becomes a living nightmare.
But Eva is a survivor and is saved, in the nick of time before a nervous breakdown, by her own toughness and her love of Öland: ‘A place where a chilly, salty taste forms a membrane, coating and soothing ever-open wounds which will always struggle to heal’. Eva is back at architecture school when the book ends. Perhaps she will find something in that rigorous discipline that satisfies her; perhaps she will grow more tolerant of ordinariness. By then, we really want to know what happens next: her story and the richly inventive language in which it is told have gripped our imagination.