"I'll put my head in the oven so you know where I am," he whispers, kissing her neck.
Jim - charming, captivating, much loved by his women friends - has attempted suicide several times. Over his period of incarceration at the Beckomberga hospital for the mentally unstable, he voices his determination to succeed. Some day soon, he tells his daughter - as he has earlier told his mother and his wife - he will swallow sixty tablets, help them down with a bottle of whisky, and swim impossibly far out into the Atlantic.
Will he really?
This question plagues Jim's daughter, the narrator of this powerful novel, who is as addicted to the hospital as her father is to alcohol. Through her subtle observations we understand the emotional needs of diehard alcoholics, the rationally uxoricidal, and other seemingly normal inhabitants of a psychiatric unit in the process of shutting down, depriving them of the only place they have known as home.
To be half in love with easeful death, to cease upon the midnight with no pain - the turmoil that Keats expressed so memorably in verse finds its prose version in this intensely poetic novel about the closeness of nightmare to normality, about relationships that briefly light up the lives of people wanting nothing more than to end them all.
In Sara Stridsberg's breathtakingly beautiful novel, the psychiatric hospital, set in a lovely park close to a lake, takes on near-mythic dimensions, both as an avenging angel and as a redeemer of lost souls.