Hjalmar Soderberg's novel, written in 1912, is a wonderfully engaging, involving, and sorrowful story. Even as an avid reader, who devours novels and non-fiction alike week after week it's one of my most select and favourite books, and I do feel that it contains as many subtle and painful insights into human nature and love as anything by his fellow Scandinavians Ibsen and Strindberg, or indeed by many other famous novelists.
The story is simple enough - a pair of adolescent sweethearts go their own seperate ways, but now and again chance upon one another, before and after they are both married to others. There are tantalising glimpses (both for the characters and the reader) of what might have been, and the painful choices we sometimes have to make in life. Written in a very clear and readable style, with moments of humour and of melodrama, for the most part Soderberg creates a plot which is tender and tense at the same time.
Soderberg's earlier novel 'Doctor Glas' was quite successful when published in English in recent years but in my opinion this is the better novel, more thorough, and even more startling at times. The settings in early Twentieth century Sweden are always vivid, as is the sense of early-modern times. The story itself seems as fresh as if it were written yesterday, and I would highly, highly recommend it. In fact for any lovers of literary novels out there, from any time period, I would urge you to buy and read this masterful book.