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Excerpt from Wonderful Feels Like This by Sara Lovestam, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Wonderful Feels Like This

by Sara Lovestam

Wonderful Feels Like This by Sara Lovestam X
Wonderful Feels Like This by Sara Lovestam
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  • First Published:
    Mar 2017, 320 pages

    Jul 2018, 320 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Michelle Anya Anjirbag
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About this Book

Print Excerpt

"Nineteen forty … the forties."

"Of course it was recorded in the forties. In 1946 exactly. Casper Hjukström on the clarinet. But that I don't really care about."

"You don't?"

Silence from above. She looks up, expecting his head to disappear back into the room, gone as if he'd been a ghost. But the man stretches his neck farther out so she can now see his chin and cheekbones outlined against the wall. He lifts his wild eyebrows.

"Well, are you going to give me pneumonia in this cold air or are you going to come up and introduce yourself like a normal person?"

*   *   *

The hallway reeks of soap residue and plastic mats. Steffi stands still just inside the entrance after she's been buzzed in. A picture showing a house in the forest hangs on the right-hand wall and on the left is a needlepoint with a phrase about God. She pulls up the shoulder strap of her school bag, which always slides down. A door opens down the hallway. The face from the window appears, followed by the rest of a body.

He's not much taller than she is, but once, maybe, he'd been taller. She takes his knotty hand and they shake. His hand is cool and dry, his handshake stronger than she'd thought it would be.

"Alvar Svensson's the name."

She wonders if she should introduce herself as Stephanie or perhaps give an imaginary name. But she is who she is. "Steffi Herrera."

Alvar Svensson leads her to his room. It is square and contains one bed, one plaid armchair, two chairs, one table, and one enormous bookcase. He folds into his armchair like a collapsing measuring rod, while nodding at Steffi to take a chair, which she does. It's already dark, judging from the lack of light through the window. She pictures the ground outside where she'd just been standing and listening to the music.

"Well, as I was saying," Alvar says and leans back so that his armchair squeaks. "I really don't care if it was Hjukström on the clarinet. I was more impressed by the wonderful vision that went by the name Anita Bergner. I don't suppose you've heard the song 'Letter from Frej'?"

Steffi wants to laugh. He's underestimating her, this old guy who enjoys Povel Ramel. She wants to imitate the bit where the woman begins to quiver in ecstasy from reading Frej's letter, but she doesn't know the words. Instead, she quotes from another part of the song:

"Your mere nearness devastates

A fire flames in me that incapacitates."

She's starting to sing as she reaches the end, but falters on the last note.

"Yes, that's just how I felt when it came to Anita," Alvar says, pleased. "Perhaps you've felt it, too." He states this as a possibility, but not a question.

"She was outside the studio when Hjukström showed up with his clarinet."

Steffi repeats his words in her head. Was he there?

"What do you mean?" she asks, feeling stupid.

"Oh, didn't I say that? I was hired for a recording … oh, I probably forgot to mention it. I was in Stockholm back then."

Steffi stares at the man in the armchair, the one who had been to Stockholm and had met Povel Ramel's clarinet player. Did he come from Stockholm? But what about his Värmland accent, then? She decided it would not be polite to ask.

"You had to go to Stockholm," Alvar reminisces without prodding. "Just look at the labels on the gramophone records."

He grabs the arms of his chair and heaves himself up. He walks to his bookcase and pulls out something very flat. Since Steffi did not immediately jump up, he pulls out another and waves them around.

"Look! Konserthuset in Stockholm! Odeons Studio, Stockholm!"

Steffi looks closely at the records. They are as large as plates, and their paper sleeves have nothing printed on them. Circling the center holes, she can make out Povel Ramel's name written in cursive. A gramophone record from Alvar's time. It is so very real it makes her seem unreal.

Copyright © 2013 by Sara Lövestam. Translation copyright © 2017 by Laura A

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