This second book of the long novel is both more of the same and completely different. This novel should never be confused with the boring day to day details of a life from the beginning to the end, but more so a collected thematic explorations of moments, events, and periods of time in a life.
This novel starts with a breathless depiction of taking a passel of kids to a childless house on a kind of vacation from Norway to Sweden and the various considerations, challenges, frustrations, joys, and annoyances that occur along the way. And for 90 straight pages without a break (paragraphs, yes, but not section) until finally the author gets a chance to sit back and read a little Dostoyevsky. At this point he can think a little and write some small sections starting with his ruminations on the Russian master. From the novel shifts to a set of different topics and sort of undulates them into the forefront and the back as needed. From marriage to love to childbearing to childrearing to producing a novel to moving from a kind of rednecky, chaotic Norway to the prim conservative Sweden to reading to writing to maybe winning awards to friendship to nihilism to mothers to fathers to language and all again and again, spiralling each into focus and then shifting.
Also there’s tons and tons of smoking. A really funny moment happens late in the novel where he has given a bad interview to a newspaper who then describes him as having nicotine-stained fingers and yellow teeth, and while he is a little mad, he realizes that it’s mostly penance for once writing a similar interview about a writer as “the man without a chin”. Whatever else you want to say about Karl Ove, he seems to believe he probably deserves it a little bit.