If Only

If Only

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A groundbreaking, potent novel about the destructive force of romantic love from award-winning writer Vigdis Hjorth

A relatively young woman, aged thirty. She married in her early twenties, had two children. It is winter. January and minus 14°C, white, frosty mist around the parked car, around the spruces, the mailbox on its post, but higher up the sky is blue, clear, the sun has come back. She has written in her diary that she is waiting for the heartbreak that will turn her into her true self. She has an impending sense of doom or possibly her own death.

Can passion be mistaken for love? When Ida meets Arnold, also married, at a conference, she impulsively invites him to share her bed. She returns home, already half-obsessed, and the dissolution of her marriage and break-up of her family pass almost without her noticing. Arnold has a more relaxed attitude toward the affair. But neither his coolness nor the alarming talk she hears about him can dampen her desire. When she finally has Arnold for herself, all the surface niceties and indulgences they enjoy – travel, sex, beers for breakfast and cocktails for dinner – can’t sustain the sweetness of the fantasy. Their mounting jealousies and insecurities metastasize, resulting in violence and addiction.

In urgent prose, with layers of candid and vivid detail, Hjorth shows just how devastating love can be when it binds the wrong people.

Reviews

  • An absorbing study of inner turmoil ... gripping

    Guardian
  • Vigdis Hjorth is one of my favorite contemporary writers.

    Sheila Heti
  • A love affair consumes a Norwegian woman's life in Hjorth's breathtaking latest ... Hjorth's narration is both irresistible and exhausting, a headlong rush that describes and enacts Ida's feelings as she careens between love and hate for a man she knows isn't "worth the sacrifice." Like Raskolnikov in Crime and Punishment, Ida has occasional flashes that she's acting irrationally, and Hjorth evokes the agony of her protagonist's self-entrapment to a devastating degree. It's an enthralling tale of passion gone to rot.

    starred reviewPublishers Weekly