Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Breathless by Anne Sward

In the tradition of Housekeeping and Tinkers, award-winning Swedish author Anne Sw√§rd’s American debut blends the lyricism of youth with the darker desires of age.

Lo was just six when she met thirteen-year-old Lukas the night a brushfire threatened their community. Both the children of immigrants, both wild with love for the land, theirs was an easy friendship despite the fierce injunctions of Lo’s family. Meeting in secret at an abandoned lake house, they whiled away their summers in the water and their winters curled up inside, reenacting dialogue from their favorite film, Breathless.

How a friendship so innocent and pure—and so strictly forbidden—could be destroyed is a mystery that unfolds across Lo’s travels from Berlin to Copenhagen to New York, from tryst to tryst, as she seems fated to roam the outside world she blames for tearing her and Lukas apart. Haunting, resonant, full of humor and heartrending depth, Breathless explores how childhood acts can stake an unimpeachable claim on our older selves, and how atonement might be wrest from the past.

Breathless is novel about a young woman named Lo. Through flashbacks, she looks back on her past and her past relationship with a young boy named Lukas. She first meets him when she is five and he is thirteen. Although her family is desperate to keep her away from Lukas, their friendship endures and becomes much deeper. When they become adults, they move away from their small town and live together, pursuing careers and other relationships.

This award winning Swedish novel has been translated into English for the international market. Readers must bear in mind that this is very much a literary novel because of its unique style of prose and story structure. The tale does not unfold chronologically. Rather, it skips back and forth through time by way of flashback. This makes the story difficult to follow and challenging to read.

The novel is about misunderstood lovers, lost innocence, and individual freedoms. The characters, their motivations, their behaviors are very unique and unusual. The writing is very deep with powerful messages within. 

This novel is not for everyone. Rather, I would recommend this novel to those readers who truly enjoy unusual literary fiction written with a unique and distinctive voice.

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