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Exploring Life, Love & Literature: A Review of Lydia Sandgren's Award-Winning Novel, Collected Works

Collected Works by Lydia Sandgren is a literary sensation that won the 2020 August Prize for Fiction in Sweden. It is a story about enduring love, the constant presence of the absent, friendships that last a lifetime and art in the borderland of truth and fiction.

The book consists of two interconnected parts: The first part follows Martin Berglund, a middle-aged publisher who lost his wife five years ago and struggles to cope with his grief and loneliness. He meets Sara Ehrenberg, a young aspiring writer who reminds him of his wife and reignites his passion for literature. The second part focuses on Sara’s life as she tries to find her voice as an author and deals with her complicated relationship with Martin.

The experience of reading this novel was truly captivating. Despite the hype surrounding various books last year, there was something about this lengthy novel that immediately drew me in. At first, I had no idea what it was about and no one could provide a clear explanation. However, as I delved deeper into the story, I began to understand the complex themes of life, literature, love, sorrow, and dreams that were woven throughout. Despite the difficulty of putting into words the impact this masterpiece had on me, I will attempt to do so. The characters were so vividly portrayed that they felt like real people, and I found myself thinking about them even after I had finished reading. The protagonist, Martin Berg, was a man of many ages and experiences, from his student days in Gothenburg and Paris to his later years as a busy publisher and father of two. Throughout his life, Martin was constantly haunted by the half-finished novel that he never seemed able to complete. The novel itself was a journey through Martin's life, with jumps back and forth in time, yet always with the same underlying dreams and ambitions. For me, the book was a reflection of my own desires for literature, art, travel, and a certain way of living. The author, Lydia Sandgren, skillfully created characters that were both ambitious and full of doubt, and then breathed life into them, inviting readers to become fully immersed in their world. Despite the novel's focus on intellectual pursuits, it was also accessible and inviting, drawing the reader in with its rich atmosphere. I took my time reading it, savoring every detail, and I was not disappointed.The ending was somewhat uncertain, with too many questions left unanswered

The book is smartly written with a rare confidence by debut author Lydia Sandgren. She creates realistic and complex characters that draw you into their lives and emotions. She also explores themes such as loss, love, art, identity and memory with subtlety and depth.

The book is not a conventional romance or a thriller, but rather a slow-burning character study that reveals itself gradually through different perspectives and time frames. It may not be for everyone’s taste, but if you enjoy literary fiction that challenges you to think and feel deeply, then you should definitely give this book a try.


Plot: 4/5

Language: 4/5

Character Arcs: 4/5

Enjoyment Factor: 4/5


Thank you Ms Meenakshi Kainth for providing an advance copy of the book!


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