Camilla, Charles, Alma, Edward, Alwilda, and Kristian are a circle of friends hurtling through mid-life. Structured as a series of monologues jumping from one friend to the next, Companions follows their loves, ambitions, pains, and anxieties as they age, fall sick, have affairs, grieve, host dinner parties and move around the world.
Hesselholdt is particularly sure to tempt any reader to pick up Woolf’s The Waves and Durrell’s The Alexandria Quartet. The author, in discussing Durrell’s novels through Camilla’s thoughts, subtly shows us how we ought to approach and read Companions: 'The existence of the absolute unique frame of reference is rejected; all depending on where the events in the books are seen from, they appear different.' Companions is a multilayered and nuanced book worthy of, and in fact, demanding of more than one reading.
Companions, translated with care and élan by Paul Russell Garrett, is not at all a gloomy work. Hesselholdt’s touch is light, even mocking, as much as her subject matter is grave. There is a dancing intelligence roaming free here, darting back and forth among ideas and sensations. Her novel is a deceptively nonchalant defence of modernism and a work of pure animation.
... the novel is an ode to the clumsier physicality of companionship, where bonds of friendship and love strain against the entropic forces of distance, irritation and habituation. Sentimentality turns swiftly to humor, intimacies wax and wane, and major life transformations turn on small moments like the brief meeting of gazes between a woman dangling from a rope during her first attempt at mountaineering and the stranger on the ground below who will make her long to leave her husband. If 'The Waves' weaves strands of consciousness into a single broad cord, Hesselholdt’s book is more light-footed and choreographic, suggesting that contingency, change and tenuous separation can sometimes enable startling moments of connection ... Not every reader will find the dense, intricate mundanity of these interlinked monologues easy to appreciate. As in actual life, it can sometimes be difficult to tell whether something crucial is happening, or nothing at all. But those who find connections among these disparate moments will be rewarded with a rare and fragile experience: a rediscovery of the strength of narrative bonds, impossible to dissolve and difficult to forget, a miraculous substance that links the characters to one another and holds them in companionable relation.