This book started out as a quest for the Holy Grail of Scandinavian ‘melancholy’. Robert Ferguson has lived in Norway for thirty years and published biographies of the pretty gloomy Ibsen and the unrelievedly depressing (and fascist) Knut Hamsun, so he must know something about it. The book is an odd one, jumping around from one country and one historical era to another. It is interspersed with personal reminiscences and transcriptions of conversations Ferguson has had with literary figures, and also contains an original three-act playlet featuring Ibsen, Ibsen’s wife and the mother of the illegitimate child he fathered in his youth. Ferguson mentions melancholia every now and then, but never quite reaches his stated goal.