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The Crack Magazine


Book of the Month: Collected Works by Lydia Sandgren

You’d be forgiven for thinking that a book called ‘Collected Works’ was, well, someone’s entire oeuvre, especially a book as hefty as this – honestly, it’s big enough to knock a horse out. But ‘Collected Works’ is actually Lydia Sandgren’s astonishing debut novel. It picked up Sweden’s prestigious August Award in 2020 and it’s now being published in the UK thanks to a translation from Agnes Broomé. It concerns Martin Berg, who, along with a friend, runs a publishing house in Gothenburg. Martin has long held an ambition to write a novel himself, but all he has to show for decades of work is an unwieldy manuscript, which languishes in several boxes. His life is further complicated by the mystery of what happened to his wife. He met Cecilia when they were both students and later they got married and had two children. Three years after giving birth to their second child, however, Cecilia upped sticks and walked out on her family leaving behind only a note. That was many years ago and no one knows what happened to her. The narrative flips back and forth between the present day and Martin’s student years – which are brilliantly drawn as Martin and his painter friend, Gustav, live the bohemian life to the full – and it all adds up to a real knickerbocker glory of a novel: funny, philosophical, poignant, humane and beautifully written. It also manages to out-Franzen Jonathan Franzen and is addictive as any box-set. Those 700+ pages? They simply flew by. RM

Pushkin Press

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