Fans, Card Reading, and The Stockholm Octavo by Karen Engelmann

Someone needs to invent a time machine, one that simply freezes time.  If I could do that, then I could sit for hours and read a whole damn book at once without all the usual daily interruptions.

I don’t think like that all the time, but I do when I’m halfway through something like The Stockholm Octavo by Karen Engelmann, and I have to do things like go to work or get ready for final exams or walk the dog.

The plot is not complicated, but it’s endlessly nuanced, full of meaningful glances and things left unsaid. It’s set in 18th-century Stockholm, with revolution brewing and ladies fluttering fans in ballrooms to keep themselves cool and signal their interest to suitors. The story centers around a complicated card reading and a man named Emil Larsson, a bachelor who needs a wife so he can keep his job at the Office of Excise and Custom. If I had enough time, I’d repeat the whole story for you, but I don’t, and I wouldn’t do it justice anyway. If you’ve got a time machine, or a few hours of uninterrupted reading, I’ve got a book to recommend you.

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