If nothing else, the UK publication of Jakob Ejersbo’s Exile shows there is more to contemporary Scandinavian fiction than thrillers. Exile is set among a group of European expatriates in Tanzania in the mid-1980s whose callous, hedonistic behaviour recalls that of the Happy Valley set in Kenya 50 years earlier, with the added frisson that the central characters are pupils at the International School in Moshi.
In a series of honest but tediously repetitive episodes, the protagonist, Samantha, describes her aimless, pleasure-seeking life, her relationships with her violent father (a former SAS officer turned mercenary), her inadequate mother and supportive sister, and her classmates, in particular the boys, whom she alternately titillates and despises.
Even a rape fails to alter her behaviour, since she throws herself into a self-destructive affair with her father’s friend, Victor, a 35-year-old drugs and arms smuggler, and tries to seduce the American ambassador’s gay son. Despite the detailed Tanzanian setting (the most successful element of the novel), Exile resembles nothing more than a hardcore version of an American high school rom-com, with drug-fuelled orgies replacing drugstores and the Prom.