Eventide is a shrewd study into the minefield of a woman’s introspection as she steps deeper into her 40s and begins to reassess her life choices.
It’s told from the single point of view of Karolina Andersson, a professor of art at the University of Stockholm. She’s just moved into an apartment after leaving an 11 year-long relationship and, although the breakup was her choice, it’s clear she’s unmoored.
She even describes the new apartment (which, by the way, is in Sodermalm, one of the myriad Stockholm localities referenced through the novel in a way that draws out Swedish subcultures) as “a good location for a period of aimless confusion”.
Through her inner monologue, we hear Karolina's private opinions of her male colleagues (generally benign, unkind or sexualised), of her research student Anton Stromberg (usually that he's irritating, sometimes intriguing), of herself (mostly that she feels like an imposter or had an overwhelming feeling of futility and loneliness), and of her ex-lovers.
Interestingly, and no doubt deliberately on the part of author Therese Bohman, we never hear her opinions on other women. In fact she makes it clear she has little interest in women because she doesn't like the comparisons they make her feel in her own life.
She has many other quirks, not least of which is her self-confessed addiction to art, sex and wine, her inconsolable fear of both flying and big numbers, and an inexplicable love for columns in architecture. But I was most taken by her fascinating observations on European art - in particular her speciality: "dangerous women in Swedish art at the turn of the twentieth century" - which reflect the deep knowledge of the author, who is also an art critic for the Swedish newspaper Expressen, and editor for monthly magazine, Axess.
Throughout it all, the author explores the grey areas surrounding the influence of gender in fidelity versus adultery, motherhood and childlessness, sex and sexism, status and classism - and the distorted standards to which women are held.
While the true essence of this novel lies in the roller-coaster of Karolina's inner thoughts, the sub-plot with her research student Anton - and the exciting discovery he's brought to her of an unheard of yet potentially highly influential female Swedish artist, Ebba Ellis - provides an excellent vehicle to turn the tables in an unexpected way.
First published as Aftonland (before being translated as Eventide by Marlaine Delargy in 2018), this marks the third novel for Bohman, after Den drunknade (translated as Drowned), and Den andra kvinnan (translated as The Other Woman). Her latest novel, published in 2022, is Andromeda.