Kristina Carlson: Mister Darwin’s Gardener

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Despite the name, this book is more about the God than the garden. Kristina Carlson has fantasized the village of Mr Darwin and its inhabitants and their various perspectives on religion in the end of 1870s, when Mr Darwin’s writings on evolution were already well known. A prominent position is given to Mr Darwin’s gardener, who’s had more than his share of the bad luck in life and perhaps for this reason, is not very highly regarded in his village.

Kristina Carlson: Herra Darwinin puutarhuri

Author: Kristina Carlson
Publisher: Otava 2009
Category: Fiction
Original language: Finnish
Rating: 3/5

Helmet Reading Challenge 2017, number 43: A book that you have planned to read for a long time.

I came across this book in the Helmet Literature Challenge Facebook group and the title got me intrigued. I just had to read it, no matter what the actual content. There was absolutely no rational reason for this, so it must be that the title just was exactly right for me. Whoever invented it, made a good job!

The novel is mostly a collection of thoughts – of Thomas Davies, the gardener, and of the people of the village. These thoughts are foremost gloomy. The structure makes it at times very difficult to follow whose thoughts are at hand. However, it was very difficult to put down this book. It kept me in its hold. Right from the beginning the story seems to build up to something sinister, a twist, in the end… but that never materializes.

Carlson is a very skilled writer in her own style. The sentences are often long and missing punctuation, as they are the flow of thought of the characters. But they also feel quite authentic. It doesn’t really matter if one is not able to follow who’s thinking. In the end, it is not important. What is important is the big picture, the petty, narrow-minded pattern of thought that seems to prevail in the village.

Kristina Carlson is an acclaimed Finnish author. She knows her craft. Thus, it is even more concerning that she joins in this book the plentiful crowd of contemporary Finnish authors, whose stories are basically infinite dwelling in misery. The villagers in Mr Darwin’s Gardener have no single happy or even friendly thought. Perhaps that’s why the aftertaste of the novel is bland. Without ups, the downs don’t feel like anything. Is happiness considered too “light”, naive or downright commercial to be included in serious literature? When was the last time a humorous novel won one of the better literature awards?

Susan

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Maria Jotuni: Suhteita, Rakkautta/Relationships, Love

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If you were transported a hundred years back in time, what would life be like? What would the relationships between people be like? Or language? I’m pretty sure there’d be quite a bit more difficulties than often is presented in time travel fiction. Maria Jotuni’s book is not about time travel, but reading it now was a journey to the past.

Maria Jotuni: Suhteita, Rakkautta

Author: Maria Jotuni
Publisher: SKS 1998
Category: Fiction
Original language: Finnish
Rating: 3/5

Helmet Reading Challenge 2017, number 3: Finnish classics.

Maria Jotuni (1880-1943) was a Finnish female writer, who described the relationships between men and women in a way that the public was not accustomed to in the early 20th century. This book contains Jotuni’s short stories. The writing style varies and is at times quite experimental. Some of the stories lean on the overtly artistic side.

Most of them are however quite brutal in their view. This is the bread and butter of the Finnish prose nowadays too – If you’d familiarize yourself with Finland just by reading Finnish contemporary literature, it would be very hard to believe the polls telling Finns are among the happiest people in the world.

Relationships, Love tells about the dark side of the ordinary life. Jotuni’s writing flows easily, but her use of dialogue is at times overwhelming. What’s interesting is to compare the language of the beginning of the 20th century to the language of today. It was sometimes difficult to understand what Jotuni’s characters were saying, because of the old-fashioned way they use the language. Unfortunately, it also distances the reader from the text so much, that the story becomes more of a curiosity than something to immerse oneself in.

When these stories were first published they were perceived as modern and ground breaking. Jotuni brought the new ideas and philosophies of her time into her stories’ world. She wasn’t preaching; her stories were built on a worldview that was just budding at the time.

Susan

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Riina Paasonen: All that we lost / Kaikki minkä menetimme

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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.

Riina Paasonen All that we lost Kaikki minkä menetimme

Author: Riina Paasonen
Publisher: Minerva 2017, Finland
Category: Fiction
Original language: Finnish
Rating: 4/5

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.

Susan

 

“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.”

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FinLit Year 2017 – Reading List for the Anniversary of Finland

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Year 2017 is a big anniversary for Finland: the country reaches 100 years of independence. The whole year will be filled with events celebrating the anniversary. To mark this special year, I decided to dive into Finnish literature, as I normally read more international authors. I will present 100 Finnish novels in this blog during the next year.

The Finnish Flag

 

Finland 100 years

Independence day 6th December

 

The problem is which 100 books to choose? I found a list of 100 books that Finnish readers selected as THE books everybody should read. Some of these I’ve read, but many of them are new to me. This list will certainly be an inspiration in finding interesting novels.

100 Finnish novels to read:

  1. Sofi Oksanen: Puhdistus (Purge)
  2. Ulla-Leena Lundberg: Jää(Ice)
  3. Kjell Westö: Missä kuljimme kerran(Where We Once Went)
  4. Kari Hotakainen: Ihmisen osa
  5. Rosa Liksom: Hytti nro 6
  6. Kari Hotakainen: Juoksuhaudantie(Battle Trench Avenue)
  7. Johanna Sinisalo: Ennen päivänlaskua ei voi(Not Before Sundown)
  8. Katja Kettu: Kätilö(The Midwife)
  9. Antti Hyry: Uuni(The Oven)
  10. Aki Ollikainen: Nälkävuosi(White Hunger)
  11. Pirkko Saisio: Punainen erokirja
  12. Arne Nevanlinna: Marie
  13. Riikka Pulkkinen: Totta(True)
  14. Juha Itkonen: Anna minun rakastaa enemmän(Let the more loving one be me)
  15. Hannu Raittila: Canal Grande
  16. Jari Tervo: Myyrä(The Mole)
  17. Mikko Rimminen: Pussikaljaromaani(Park Life)
  18. Kristina Carlson: Herra Darwinin puutarhuri(Mr. Darwin’s Gardener)
  19. Bo Carpelan: Kesän varjot(Berg)
  20. Markus Nummi: Karkkipäivä(Candy Day)
  21. Monika Fagerholm: Amerikkalainen tyttö(The American Girl)
  22. Mikko Rimmisen: Nenäpäivä(Red Nose Day)
  23. Helena Sinervo: Runoilijan talossa(In the House of the Poet)
  24. Tuomas Kyrö: Mielensäpahoittaja(The Man Who Gets Upset About Things)
  25. Hannu Väisänen: Vanikan palat
  26. Sofi Oksanen: Kun kyyhkyset katosivat(When the Doves Disappeared: A Novel)
  27. Miika Nousiainen: Vadelmavenepakolainen
  28. Jari Tervo: Layla
  29. Olli Jalonen: Poikakirja
  30. Katri Lipson: Kosmonautti
  31. Riikka Pulkkinen: Raja
  32. Miika Nousiainen: Metsäjätti
  33. Emmi Itäranta: Teemestarin kirja(Memory of Water)
  34. Hannu Väisänen: Toiset kengät
  35. Kjell Westö: Älä käy yöhön yksin
  36. Antti Tuuri: Ikitie
  37. Markus Nummi: Kiinalainen puutarha
  38. Jaakko Yli-Juonikas: Neuromaani
  39. Elina Hirvonen: Kauimpana kuolemasta
  40. Hannu Väisänen: Taivaanvartijat
  41. Rakel Liehu: Helene
  42. Juha Itkonen: Myöhempien aikojen pyhiä
  43. Jari Tervo: Troikka
  44. Sirpa Kähkönen: Lakanasiivet
  45. Risto Isomäki: Sarasvatin hiekkaa
  46. Juha Itkonen: Kohti
  47. Kristina Carlson: William N. päiväkirja
  48. Heidi Köngäs: Dora, Dora
  49. Antti Tuuri: Kylmien kyytimies
  50. Olli Jalonen: 14 solmua Greenwichiin
  51. Miika Nousiainen: Maaninkavaara
  52. Eve Hietamies: Yösyöttö
  53. Joel Haahtela: Katoamispiste
  54. Jari Tervo: Ohrana
  55. Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen: Lumikko ja yhdeksän muuta
  56. Sofi Oksanen: Stalinin lehmät(Stalin’s Cows)
  57. Arto Salminen: Kalavale
  58. Elina Hirvonen: Että hän muistaisi saman
  59. Juha Itkonen: Hetken hohtava valo
  60. Leena Parkkinen: Sinun jälkeesi, Max
  61. Pirjo Hassinen: Mansikoita marraskuussa
  62. Sirpa Kähkönen: Hietakehto
  63. Erik Wahlström: Jumala
  64. Riikka Pulkkinen: Vieras
  65. Turkka Hautala: Salo
  66. Arto Salminen: Ei-kuori
  67. Hannu Rajaniemi: Kvanttivaras
  68. Bo Carpelan: Lehtiä syksyn arkistosta(Ur höstens arkiv)
  69. Johanna Sinisalo: Linnunaivot
  70. Joel Haahtela: Elena
  71. Riikka Ala-Harja: Maihinnousu
  72. Veikko Huovinen: Konsta Pylkkänen etsii kortteeria
  73. Miina Supinen: Liha tottelee kuria
  74. Reko Lundán: Ilman suuria suruja
  75. Laura Honkasalo: Sinun lapsesi eivät ole sinun
  76. Matti Yrjänä Joensuu: Harjunpää ja pahan pappi
  77. Petri Tamminen: Enon opetukset
  78. Anja Snellman: Parvekejumalat
  79. Juha Seppälä: Paholaisen haarukka
  80. Laura Save: Paljain jaloin
  81. Tuomas Kyrö: Mielensäpahoittaja ja ruskea kastike
  82. Jari Järvelä: Veden paino
  83. Leena Lander: Käsky
  84. Anja Snellman: Lemmikkikaupan tytöt
  85. Ranya El Ramly: Auringon asema
  86. Virpi Hämeen-Anttila: Suden vuosi
  87. Matti Yrjänä Joensuu: Harjunpää ja rautahuone
  88. Tuomas Kyrö: Kerjäläinen ja jänis
  89. Marko Kilpi: Elävien kirjoihin
  90. Arto Salminen: Paskateoria
  91. Johanna Sinisalo: Enkelten verta
  92. Laura Gustafsson: Huorasatu
  93. Riku Korhonen: Lääkäriromaani
  94. Laila Hirvisaari: Minä, Katariina
  95. Juha Seppälä: Mr. Smith
  96. Kauko Röyhkä: Miss Farkku-Suomi
  97. Satu Taskinen: Täydellinen paisti
  98. Tuomas Kyrö: Liitto
  99. Anna-Leena Härkönen: Ei kiitos
  100. Riku Korhonen: Kahden ja yhden yön tarinoita

New Releases – Of Course!

However, I’m sure I’ll be adding new releases during the year. There’s already one coming out in January I’m especially looking forward: Mikko Kamula: Ikimetsien sydänmailla.

Mikko Kamula: Ikimetsien sydänmailla

Let’s not Forget YA or MG

And there will certainly be some Young Adult and Middle Grade fiction as well. Here are a few interesting ones I gathered:

  1. Reeta Aarnio:Maan kätkemät, Veden vanki (2009), Virvatulen vartijat (2010), Tuulien taikuri (2013).
  2. Tuulia Annette Aho:Kuikansulka.
  3. Katri Alatalo:Mustien ruusujen maa trilogy: Karnin labyrintti (2012). Laulu kadonneesta saaresta (2013).
  4. Henrika Madeleine Andersson:Emma Gloria ja Kalamaran varjot (2006)
  5. Ilkka Auer: Lumen ja jään maa.
  6. Saku Heinänen:Zaida ja lumienkeli, Zaida ja elovalkeat
  7. Anna-Sofia ”Anu” Holopainen:Molemmin jaloin, Ihon alaiset
  8. Markku Karpio:Selviytymispeli
  9. Tomi Kalevi Kontio:Keväällä isä sai siivet, Austraasian viimeiset lapsetMaan veli
  10. Sanna Isto(Sanna Isto-Rodenkirchen): Maanalaiset
  11. Leena Elisabeth Krohn:Collected fiction, Tainaron: postia toisesta kaupungista, Älä lue tätä kirjaa: kertomuksia keskenkasvuisille.
  12. Lea Marjatta Kurenniemi:Anneli ja Onneli
  13. Salla Simukka: Lumikki, Sisarla: seikkailu toisessa maailmassa
  14. Mintie Das: Kuohuva maailma, Hyiset mainingit
  15. Magdalena Hai: Haiseva käsi ja muita kauheita tarinoita, Kerjäläisprinsessa (trilogy)
  16. Emmi Itäranta: Kudottujen kujien kaupunki (The Weaver)
  17. Katja Krekelä: Hurjalinna
  18. Paula Noronen: Supermarsu ja jääräpää Janne
  19. Elina Rouhiainen: Kesytön (four novels)
  20. Johanna Sinisalo: Möbiuksen maa, Sankarit (compare with J.R.R. Tolkien: Kullervon tarina)
  21. Marja Leena Tiainen: Kahden maailman tyttö
  22. Tuutikki Tolonen: Mörkövahti
  23. Maria Turtschaninoff: Marisa

So much to read, so little time!

A Happy New Year 2017 to you!

Susan

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