This is a slim book, 144 pages, written in simple prose. Yet it is a surprisingly effective and moving work - one which engrosses the reader. The story concerns one Johan Sletten and his wife Mai, whom he loves deeply. This is important, because he didn't love his first wife. But he wasn't the sort of man who could have divorced her Ã¢Â€Â“ too dramatic. Fortunately for Johan, she died in an accident, leaving him her money. Johan feels slightly guilty being happy that this freed him, though it drove his son away from him in the long run as well. This back story is all filled in as the book progresses, but it starts with a simple scene in which Johan is told he is dying. Ullmann focuses on how he deals with this news and how it affects his relationship with Mai, all the while subtly accumulating details about their past. She does this by frequently recounting some remarkably simple, memorable episodes in their relationship. One of these is when Johan discovers his wife lying pointlessly about the weather, and decides, eventually, never to bring it up to her. Another is when Johan, facing retirement, is instead sacked for a bizarre misdemeanour that he may have known would cause trouble, and can't explain. Mostly though, the book shows the day to day relationship between Johan and Mai, until the inevitable and unexpectedly powerful ending. This short book is an excellent read; more value for money than many twice its length. [Keir Hind]
Release Date: 5 Jan (Paperback). Published by Picador. Cover Price Ã‚Â£7.99.