‘A Man in Love’ is the second book in Karl Ove Knausgaard’s My Struggle six-part autobiographical series of novels. This particular volume focuses on Knausgaard’s relationship with his second wife, Linda, and their life in Stockholm with their three young children. At the time, Knausgaard had recently published his first novel to widespread critical acclaim but was finding it difficult to balance the demands of his domestic life with his writing.
Initially, I thought that ‘A Man in Love’ would be very similar to the first book in the series, ‘A Death in the Family‘ but given the different themes, I found this second instalment to be much less intense overall. Unlike the first volume, it even had its genuinely amusing moments such as the scene where Knausgaard takes his baby daughter to a parent and toddler group (somehow I don’t think he originally intended his account of this scene to be amusing but I thought it was).
On the other hand, ‘A Man in Love’ is very similar to ‘A Death in the Family’ both structurally and stylistically. As before, Knausgaard doesn’t tell his life story chronologically. This second instalment doesn’t continue from where ‘A Death in the Family’ left off and could even be read as a stand-alone book. No references are made to the events which were described in the previous volume and Knausgaard’s relationship with his father is barely mentioned here.
Despite the second book’s different themes, the series continues to be provocative and Knausgaard is as startlingly honest as ever, particularly about the aspects of his domestic life he finds frustrating and how he feels it restricts his work. The style of writing is also very much the same and reads like a stream of consciousness which drifts between different periods of his life from the small curiosities of everyday life to life-changing events. The blurred lines between fiction and non-fiction continues to be the most fascinating aspect of the books. On one hand, the series has been marketed as fiction yet I still find myself reading it as an autobiography.
So far, reading ‘My Struggle’ hasn’t been the most enjoyable reading experience but it is hard to look away from Knausgaard’s raw honesty in the way he describes his life. For that reason alone, I find his work strangely addictive. The third volume, ‘Boyhood Island’, is due to be published in the UK later this month and I look forward to reading the rest of this ambitious series in the future.