A set of triplets is born in Sweden in 1989. Their lives are eventful from the start, as one is quickly whisked away to have treatment for breathing problems. By 2016, the siblings are living very separate lives. Sebastian works as a cognitive scientist in London, though the nature of what his organisation does is so secret, even he doesn’t know exactly what his work involves. Clara is trying to revive her journalistic career by reporting on Easter Island’s environmental degradation. Matilda left her home country looking for love, and is now back in Sweden with a relationship and stepdaughter. The revelation of a family secret is about to bring the triplets back together.

A System So Magnificent is a big, digressive novel with a real energy to its writing, nicely captured in Nichola Smalley’s translation. For example:

First came the triplets, then the drama and the tears, and the drama again. Then almost twenty-three years’ ceasefire. But the day finally came when the last of the three triplets left home: the first-born, Sebastian, who, perhaps because he’d been the first to leave the womb, had the most difficulty flying the nest, even though he flew no further than to a room in the local student halls. The same day, their father moved into a single room at the local hotel. It didn’t even have a minibar, but there were stars outside the window – indeed, the whole universe. He looked out of the window and for the first time in his life it struck him that the universe was very, very big and that a person, in comparison, was very, very small.

Translation from Swedish by Nichola Smalley

In this paragraph, there’s rhythm, repetition, shifting imagery, and a casual switch from the human scale to the vast universe. It’s appropriate for a novel concerned with the question of whether there is a system underpinning the apparent connections and parallels in its characters’ lives. This book is an intriguing journey.

Published by Scribe UK.

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