Last year I read Tommi Kinnunen’s Where Four Roads Meet. It was popular in Finland like it’s spin-off Lopotti, and quite predictably they were both full of agony and non-communicating, hapless characters… Well, well.
Now I got Riina Paasonen’s All that we lost in my hands and after first few pages it was a total dêja vu. I’m glad I got past those first few pages, because it turned out to be an excellent satire of the very Finnish genre that Kinnunen’s books characterize so formidably.
Author: Riina Paasonen
Publisher: Minerva 2017, Finland
Original language: Finnish
HelMet Reading Challenge 2017: number 26. A family story.
This genre is of course “the deepest hollows of agony and hopelessness with the bonus of a grandmother of your nightmares”.
I’ve probably had just bad luck with coming across so many Finnish novels of this category, but enough is enough. Paasonen most likely didn’t mean her novel to be a satire of this genre concocted by me, but it certainly fits the description. Her novel is, however, described as a tragicomic story by the publisher.
Paasonen has put together a family with all the possible modern era problems I’ve read in recent novels: crumbling marriage with a wife, who doesn’t appreciate her husband and a husband who is soft on the verge of flegmatic, children with psychological disturbances and/or identity crises concerning sexual orientation, a grandmother whose life’s purpose is to destroy all happiness on earth, lack of communication and lack of simple caring. As a literary glue there’s no lack of sweat, blood or urine from the pages of this novel…
Paasonen has created a story that has twists and turns and keeps the reader interested through all the 261 pages – just the right length. Many Finnish bloggers have liked the dialogue in this book. It’s true that it flows well, but it’s also very much in the Kaurismäki style – less is more. At some points the constant staccato rhythm of the dialogue got on my nerves.
The story itself goes hilariously overboard with all the dark elements it presents and what’s more, it gives quite an unorthodox catharsis to all those readers that would like to see evil grannies have their pay, once and for all.
“Raccoons live in pairs. Johannes learns this when he hits a raccoon while driving at the darkness of the night. Soon Johannes realizes he is taking care of the spouse of the dead raccoon.
The old wooden house in Tampere in the middle of an overgrown garden is the home for lonely Johannes, equally lonely as the raccoon. His wife Orvokki is re-living her lost youth with 30 something Kai and the connection with the grown-up children is fading. Sensitive Arvi locks up in the house and Aura feels the only way to get some attention would be a bank robbery.
Johannes directs all his attention to the raccoon. Relationship with the wild animal becomes increasingly important for him. Until something irreversible happens.
All that we lost is a tragicomic story of secrets, longing for love and unsatisfied needs – but also of hope. The novel describes how people cross borders in unexpected ways if necessary.”