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Kristina Olsson. Atria, $26 (256p) ISBN 978-1-5011-9313-2

Olsson (In One Skin) uses the building of the Sydney Opera House as the backdrop for a contemplative story of personal guilt and political upheaval. When Australian announces a draft for Vietnam in 1965, Pearl Keogh, a journalist for the Telegraph, begins a frantic search for the younger brothers she abandoned after their mother’s early death. Swedish artist Axel Lindquist arrives in Sydney to produce a glass sculpture for the new opera house. He struggles with the language, designing an appropriate sculpture, and lingering animosity from others toward Sweden’s neutrality during World War II. Axel and Pearl drift into a relationship, though Olsson’s jarring switch between their points of view and heavy reliance on internal thoughts obscures their bond. Pearl finally tracks down her brothers and learns they have already enlisted, causing her to tumble into guilt-ridden reminiscences. Meanwhile, Axel wanders through Sydney, using his reflections on art and quest to meet the reclusive Opera House architect to distract him from the his emotions surrounding his Swedish resistance fighter father’s disappearance after the war. Olsson juxtaposes Pearl and Axel’s complex feelings about their fractured families and tenuous connection with news of politician’s increasing hostility toward the Opera House project. Readers who do not mind a leisurely paced story will enjoy exploring these historical political tensions and meditations on personal responsibility. (Oct.)