It is March, an exceptionally cold spring. In an apartment building on the southern heights of Stockholm, a woman barely clings to life. She has arrived quietly from nowhere, and she is never seen. Behind the drawn curtains and the closed door, there is only silence and darkness. Sometimes, at night, the Lady in Green makes her appearances. Still and silent, she fills the rooms with her nauseating presence, only to slip away again, just as she did in the woman’s childhood feverish dreams. Only now, the Lady in Green wants something, waits for something. Her patience is infinite. Her insistence is growing, pulling the woman towards the eternal darkness – terrifying and utterly tempting.
A young man lives in the flat across the hallway. His rooms are bare, as if he has just moved in and may soon move out again. At night, he stares into his computer screen, searching in vain for a future that eludes him.
A chance occurrence – a parcel for the woman mistakenly delivered to the young man – initiates an awkward communication. One-sided, as the woman does not respond. Eventually the young man leaves the parcel by the woman’s door. His gesture leaves the woman with an intolerable sense of gratitude, prompting her to respond in some way. The unwelcome intrusion hangs over her, until she finds a way of reciprocating without breaking her isolation. Late at night she places a book by the young man’s door.
As the young man slowly begins to do little errands for the woman, each one is followed by a token thank you in the form of a book, placed by his door in the silence of the night. The young man reads, and begins to reciprocate, sharing his own books with her. An awkward and hesitant nightly exchange of books evolves.
In the flat above the young man lives his friend, an elderly man. The two often share meals in in the old man’s flat. Slowly, the old man is pulled into the developing virtual friendship downstairs.
Then, as the icy spring turns to early summer the virtual friendship turns real. Slowly and tentatively the three friends enter the real world. As the months go by, they take their books with them outdoors, finding places around the city that they associate with each book. In the process they become more than friends.
The novel tells the story of three people’s road to recovery of their selves. A discarded woman, paralyzed by anger and grief and unaware of her capacity for love. A young man unable to accept who he is. And an old man who finally allows himself to be loved. The unlikeliest travel companions.
New Zealand/Penguin NZ
Norway/Vigmostad & Bjørke (2 books)