Monday, 18 January 2016

Surunhauras, lasinterävä - Siiri Enoranta

‘Sadeiassa jokin sai hänet varpailleen, jokin sai hänet toivomaan, että hän voisi koskettaa tämän hameenhelmaa, edes vain helmaa, kuin kangas olisi osa Sadeiaa, ja Tirilaiaa raivostutti, häntä raivostutti nyt, hän ei ollut samanlainen kuin kaikki ne typerät lampaat, jotka sokeina aukoivat suutaan odottaen Sadeialta herkkuja, vai oliko hän juuri sellainen, hän ja valkosuklaakanit, hän ei tosiaan voinut vastustaa niitä, hän oli kaikkien muiden yläpuolella, hän oli Sadeian alapuolella, hän olisi musteenmusta prinsessa!’

‘Something about Sadeia got her on her toes, something made her wish that she could touch the hem of her skirt, even just the hem, as if the fabric were a part of Sadeia, and it made Tirilaia angry, she was angry now, she wasn’t like all those stupid sheep that blindly opened their mouths waiting for Sadeia to give them treats, or was she just like that, she and the white chocolate bunnies, she really couldn’t resist them, she was above everyone else, she was beneath Sadeia, she would be the ink-black princess!’

This is a book I have so much to say about and no idea where to start. Surunhauras, lasinterävä (literally ‘Fragile as sadness, sharp as glass’, though the English translation offered by Bonnier is ‘The Sorrow-deer Tamer’) is Siiri Enoranta’s sixth novel, and continues with the familiar recipe: long, stream of consciousness –type sentences, strange names, a desperate dystopian world and deep, passionate romance. These are also the reasons why Enoranta’s previous novel, Nokkosvallankumous, is at the top of my favourite books of all time, so I’m far from complaining. And I really liked this novel as well… at first, anyway.

Surunhauras, lasinterävä is a story of the Sorrow-deer islands, where every six-year old is told by the sorrow-deer how much sadness they’ll have to endure in their life, and the Sidrineia kingdom, deeply matriarchal and led by a sixteen-year old tyrant. The story has over a dozen characters through whose eyes the intricate plot is told, hopping from place and time to another and recapping the same events from different minds, different principles and morals.

There are definitely good things about the book, and I’ll lead with those because I really wanted to like the story more than I did. I liked Sadeia and Kurkuma’s characters a lot at the beginning, but as the story processed, I came to like Tirilaia more than anyone else. She had her twisted admiration for the young tyrant and her childlike tendencies that made me believe she could really be a ten-year old girl who had been dealt the worst possible hand in life. Her story also didn’t get a quick fix ex machina like most of the other characters’ did, and she continued to have her own, strong voice the whole way through.

The style of the book is flowing but very heavy, the sentences drawling and reaching on and on in the most beautiful ways – if that’s your thing. There’s also something very deeply ingrained and Finnish about Enoranta’s word choices that made me feel like I was reading an old epic that took place in the future, faithful to my home country but set somewhere very far. She has an exceptional grasp on the language as well as a creative mind to put it into use, to the point where the novel’s flimsy plot didn’t prevent me from enjoying the work.

The characters are very different, at least in theory, but the more I read, the more I felt like most of them were blending together, similar voices and thoughts and all-around losing their characteristics in the mess that the book became after the two worlds collided. Some of the characters didn’t get much of a personality at all, and I think it would have been better to leave some of them out and focus on developing the relationships and characters that really mattered.

Speaking of relationships, I think Surunhauras, lasinterävä really suffers from its portrayal of teenage instalove. The novel wanted me to care about two separate romances that started too quick, developed too frantically and were too physical to really relate to, not to mention how these people just very conventionally found each other and fell in love in a heartbeat. I was also meant to care when one of these romances was brought to a bitter end, with the other character going as far as remarking that they’ll never love again. Sure, true love is a thing but here they hardly had enough time to even get past the pathetic crush -phase.

One more thing that might seem irrelevant but made the world of a difference to me: I really liked the last sentence of the book. It was out of nowhere and sudden, but it was hopeful and just so cute. I read it to my mum and she thought it was so cute that she actually started crying. That was definitely a great ending for the book.

All in all, I’d like to give the book 3,5 stars out of 5, because it was good, even though it just didn’t do it for me. I’ll round that down just because I liked Nokkosvallankumous so much more, but I’ll forever be looking forward to Siiri Enoranta’s new works (and read the previous ones when I’m in the country/run into them), because her talent is undeniable and her novels are always interesting, miserable and a pleasure to read. I hope one day her works will be translated into other languages as well, because I've spent so much time rambling about them to non-Finnish friends and because I'd love to see more Finnish quality YA novels out there in the world.

(PS. I promise I’ll start going to Starbucks less… or maybe not. Sorry not sorry! I’ll take a picture somewhere else next time though (maybe))

Saturday, 9 January 2016

After I Do - Taylor Jenkins Reid

“Big gestures are easy. Making fun of someone who’s only trying to help you, that’s family.”

I actually finished After I Do a while ago, life just happened and prevented me from writing about it. Actually, life happened and prevented me from doing anything I should have been doing, bleh. Anyway, I finally got around to doing so, bit by bit! Sorry sorry, I promise I’ll be better this year, read more books and talk about them more. Anyway! 

Lauren and Ryan have been together for eleven years, the adorable high school sweethearts they are, but they can no longer stand each other. Everything that used to be endearing turns annoying, and they find themselves constantly arguing about the smallest little things. This is why they decide to stay separated for a year, zero contact whatsoever, discover themselves outside of their marriage and maybe find what they once had. I actually picked up the book because of the theme – it’s about a marriage falling apart, after all. How often do you read a book like this?

The story is told mostly through Lauren’s eyes, with small insights offered on Ryan’s feelings occasionally. This is clear from the start – it’s a book about her, not really them. Lauren is lost but hopeful, lonely but not alone, and during the story she discovers that there is no one perfect way to have a happy marriage, but everyone must find their own way. I think this was a very precious lesson, and I love how it’s taught through so many different people – Lauren herself, her mother, sister, best friend, brother, some lady writing advice columns.

The style of the book is very earnest and realistic. It’s humorous, but it also understands that life is not, and will not be a fairy tale. I found it very interesting in its own right, though the book doesn’t necessarily offer any brilliant insights on life beyond its subject. This isn’t a bad thing per se, but finding a quote that sounds sharp and witty outside of the provided context proved to be more difficult than it should have. The quote I ended up with was because it made me happy - it's just like my own family, after all.

I would be lying if I claimed that I didn’t enjoy After I Do, didn’t giggle with Lauren sometimes and shake my head in disbelief when going through her struggles with her. It wasn’t exactly deep, dark or bittersweet, but it was beautiful in its own right. It wasn’t a life-changing book, but sometimes I’m reminded of the time I spent with it, and it’s like an old goofy friend with whom I’m always happy to enjoy a cup of tea but not an intellectual conversation. It’s a book I can recommend if you enjoy a light but earnest story about finding yourself, among love and other things. I'm not actively looking to read more of Taylor Jenkins Reid's works, but if I run into one... well, I wouldn't mind that.

I'm pretty sure you'll hear me talk about Siiri Enoranta's Surunhauras, lasinterävä next! I'm trying to finish it before I leave Finland again ^^ Do look forward to that because a) I've really, really liked it so far b) I have so much to say about it and c) I haven't shut up about it since I started reading it, ha.