I recently finished reading “The Serious Game” by Hjalmar Söderberg, translated from the Swedish.
The blurbs reads:
“Sweden at the turn of the previous century. Arvid, an ambitious and well-educated young man, meets Lydia, the daughter of a landscape painter, during an idyllic summer vacation and falls in love. Lydia, however, has other suitors, and Astrid is frightened of being tied down by his emotions. Trapped inside loveless marriages of convenience, they struggle in later years to rekindle the promise of their romance with bitter and tragic results.”
It wasn’t the most dynamic of books, but was sufficiently interesting to keep me reading it.
It starts with young love between the protagonists, and describes Lydia’s family life and her life from her view, before switching to Arvid’s point of view for the rest of the book.
Their relationship through the book is really weird because it seems so promising at the start an then things get complicated when they lose touch and marry other people, for different reasons. Arvid seems reluctant to marry at all but does anyway. Lydia isn’t that bothered about once she is married.
They have an affair on and off, but Lydia seems distant and strange at times, blowing hot and cold. I feel sorry for Arvid because she keeps him hanging on for her, but he seems like a nice guy who is determined to do the right thing.
Their relationship seems to be doomed when they both get married, and despite having an affair, things seem to trail off. I didn’t think it had “tragic results”, but other readers may think otherwise. There are some good bits in their relationship but it is fairly dismal because they don’t seem hugely passionate in their affair.
The lovers’ relationship aside, the book does describe the life and culture in Sweden quite well, picking out the songs they sing, the paintings by Lydia’s father, the many trips Arvid takes to the opera, and the city life in Stockholm versus the country life.
I’m only giving this book 6/10 because it took me a while to get into it properly. I thought Arvid was a better character than Lydia because we learn more about him and see that he has a lot of things to keep him occupied in his life, whereas Lydia just seems a bit lazy and uncaring. If you like Sweden and maybe a bit of history then try this novel, but if you’re looking for an interesting positive relationship then you won’t find it here. However, even though you won’t find either Romeo and Juliet or Cathy and Heathcliff in this, you will find a more average sort of couple to focus on.