I knew very little about the history of 18th century Sweden, but this book inspired me to find out more. The king is dead and the frozen remnants of his army are straggling back through the frozen west coast. Their despair is reflected in the life and marriage of Jacob, also now exiled from his home, and out in the snow. Both beautifully and sparingly written. You can feel yourself freezing as the story takes hold of you.
He went out into the milky-white dawn and saw a horse lying in the street with its neck extended like a bird in flight. The soldiers were still coming, a thin procession of stragglers emerging from the forest and winding their way across the meadow. He pressed himself flat against the wall, and they passed by without looking at him and without breaking their slow, plodding rhythm. Their clothes hung loose from their emaciated bodies, their hands were wrapped in rags, their swaddled feet were frozen parcels of snow. They did not speak; all that could be heard was the shuffling sound of dogged, exhausted onward movement.