When Ester Nilsson meets the actor Olof Sten, she falls madly in love. Olof makes no secret of being married, but he and Ester nevertheless start to meet regularly and begin a strange dance of courtship. Olof insists he doesn't plan to leave his wife, but he doesn't object to this new situation either...it's far too much fun.
... another scalpel-sharp look at a doomed relationship ... absurd and also painfully familiar to anyone who’s ever been there ... one of the key joys (if something so painful can be termed a joy) of this novel – its detailed dissection of a relationship’s dynamics and power-plays ... I am trying to think why these novels have connected so hard with women that I know, and I think that it’s Andersson’s treating of these intense emotional states with gravity and worth – emotional states that are so often gendered, or dismissed flippantly ... The narration throughout is cool and impartial, the prose razor-sharp and precise. Every other sentence begs to be underlined, reveals an uncomfortable nugget of truth ... When a man performs longing, in literature or otherwise, it is seen as somehow noble. When a woman performs longing she’s too often seen as hysterical, unstable, the shrew of Olof’s imagination. But in Acts of Infidelity, Andersson is not afraid to delve properly into the histrionic depths of a crush.
What makes these simple stories of unrequited passion so unusual and gripping is Ester ... she is Andersson’s lab rat, infected with ardor and left to wander through the novels’ maze, bashing blindly into its obstacles. Those obstacles can be delightfully basic ... Her style is blunt, pragmatic, dogged ... Andersson’s critique of the modern order is particularly sharp when it touches on ghosting, that torture by technology ... Like most sequels, Acts of Infidelity isn’t flattered by a comparison with its predecessor. Its rhythms are already familiar; it seems baggy, overlong. (The translation, by Saskia Vogel, is stodgier, too.) ... You can sometimes feel like tearing your hair out watching Ester repeat her painful errors ... Her honesty, usually disconcerting, is also brave; she refuses to suffer with quiet propriety. Yet what’s most touching is that uncharacteristic ellipsis, marking a place that not even words can reach.
... invites readers to join Ester in trying to decide what actually constitutes an act of infidelity ... powerfully captures the frustration of pursuing someone who wishes neither to commit nor to break things off. Ester is a captivating protagonist, and her efforts to produce consistently optimistic interpretations for Olof’s inconsistent actions are at once funny and poignant. There’s only one problem with the novel’s psychological realism: Olof himself. The power of Ester’s passion for this man is foundational to the story, but it’s not a passion readers are likely to share. Ester’s claim that they possess uniquely strong physical chemistry is belied by the novel’s underwhelming descriptions ... Even apart from these scenes, Olof does not achieve on the page the level of charm and irresistibility that would justify Ester’s enduring fascination with him. Still, the measure of our dissatisfaction with Olof is also the measure of our sympathies for Ester, as the novel vividly chronicles the emotional havoc he wreaks upon her otherwise logical, well-ordered life.