Pu Bergman is eight years old when Mother rents Pastor Dahlberg’s ramshackle house for the summer. Pu is a Sunday’s child—one said to be endowed with special gifts of sensitivity, clairvoyance, and the ability to see ghosts. As the novel opens, Pu’s heart is full of anticipation as he goes to the train station to greet his father. When Father arrives, he is strangely distant, melancholy, and severe. Over the next twenty-four hours, Pu’s world is marked indelibly. In beautifully realized set pieces that reveal the Bergman family landscape and culminate in a train trip Pu and his father take together, Pu encounters death and the infirmities of aging, is humiliated by his terrorizing older brother, dwells on ghost stories the servants tell, and witnesses the painful arguments between his parents.
A series of “flashbacks to the future” enriches our understanding of the relationship between man and boy, as a much older Ingmar Bergman visits his ill and dying father, bringing the novel full circle. In his review of the film made from Sunday’s Children, Vincent Canby called the story “gorgeous, richly poignant . . . Not since Wild Strawberries has Mr. Bergman dealt with time in a way that is simultaneously quite so limpid and so mysterious.”