Berlin, 1920s. Hilde Wangel works at a Scandinavian travel agency in the German capital. She is seemingly healthy, robus and satisfied with life. Then Hilde gets the first of several panic attacks, and she seeks out a psychoanalyst. Can the panic attacks be connected to events in her earlier years? In the treatment room, Hilde Wangel starts talking: about her childhood in a small town far up north; about her mother’s death and father’s grief and feeling of guilt; about her stepmother Elida’s dark side and longing for the sea; and about the visiting master builder, whom she so admired, who approached her, and who, she, ten years later, sought out to claim what he had promised her.
Finding her existence on the continent increasingly difficult, Hilde Wangel returns home to her sister Bolette and her family in Oslo. But Hilde can’t escape the shadows of her time in Berlin. She picks up contact with her former fiancé Jørgen Friel, a mineralogist and member of the Norwegian fascist party. And when another world war breaks out, Hilde Wangel has already made some fatal choices.
Klas Östergren’s novel is an original, rich portrait of one of Ibsen’s most powerful minor characters: Hilde Wangel from The Lady from the Sea and The Masterbuilder. Set in Europe on the brink of war, the novel elegantly portrays a woman who is both a prisoner in her own life, as well as being strangely free. In an impressing way, Östergren lifts Hilde Wangel out of Ibsen’s plays, observes her from different perspectives and gives her a long, complex and enigmatic life.
Hilde Wangel is a novel freely based on Henrik Ibsen’s The Lady from the Sea and The Masterbuilder. The book is a part of Ibsen NOR, where three great Scandinavian storytellers have written novels inspired by Henrik Ibsen. The other books in the project are Vigdis Hjorth’s Henrik Falk and Merete Pryds Helle’s Nora.