Lucca Montale, a 32-year-old Danish actress, is rushed into hospital after a motor accident. She is severely injured after a head-on collision with a lorry. Robert, the doctor responsible for treating her, is obliged to break the news that she may never see again.
Robert and Lucca are both suffering the after-effects of love. He has sought refuge in controlled resignation since his divorce. She has rushed into dramatic, desperate acts. Gr�ndahl masterfully deploys a dual narrative, switching with astounding insight between the stories that the two protagonists relate to each other.
As melancholy, autumnal and finely calibrated as a Bergman film, this second novel by Grondahl (Silence in October) meticulously chronicles the separate past loves of a doctor and his patient, and their shared present detachment. Lucca Montale, an actress with a young son and a string of unhappy affairs behind her, rushes out of her house in the Danish countryside and drives head-on into a truck after her playwright husband, Andreas, tells her that he wants a divorce. At the hospital, she is eventually informed that she may never see again. Attempting to adjust to her new reality, Lucca becomes attached to Robert, her doctor, a divorced father living in a state of denial and resignation. The two manage to overcome not only the abysmal reality of Lucca's injury, but also their own bitter past experiences. Robert invites Lucca to stay with him while she recovers, and their chaste intimacy bears quiet fruit. Through a slow, deliberate accumulation of emotional, psychological and physical detail, Grondahl paints an achingly luminous and nuanced portrait of two characters alienated from those around them and from their own pasts. Lucca's experiences-glamorous trysts with a famous director, an actor and all sorts of men around Europe-are very different from Robert's lonely domesticity and long hours spent listening to classical music, but their stories are treated with equally sensuous attention, the more poignant because it is filtered through an awareness that "life lasted longer than your dreams." Beautifully translated by Born, this is a lovely minor-key effort.