At eighteen years, old Karl Ove moves to a tiny fisherman's village in the far north of the arctic circle to work as a school teacher. No interest in the job itself, his intention is to save up enough money to travel while finding the space and time to start his writing career. Initially everything looks fine. He writes his first few short stories, finds himself accepted by the hospitable locals, and receives flattering attention from several beautiful local girls. But as the darkness of the long arctic nights start to consume the landscape, Karl Ove's life takes a darker turn. His writing repeats itself, his drinking escalates to some disturbing blackouts, his attempts at losing his virginity end in humiliation and shame, and to his distress, he also develops romantic feelings towards one of his students. Along the way, there are flashbacks to his high school years and the roots of his current problems. Ever present is the long shadow cast by his father, whose own sharply increasing alcohol consumption serves as an ominous backdrop to the author's lifestlye.