Archive for the ‘Finnish Literature’ Category

I discovered Selja Ahava’sThings that Fall from the Sky‘ through a friend. This is my first ever Finnish book, I think. So, Yay! 😊 I read this for #ReadIndies hosted by Kaggsy from ‘Kaggsy’s Bookish Ramblings’ and Lizzy from ‘Lizzy’s Literary Life’. The English translation of this book is published by Oneworld, which is an indie publisher based out of London.

Saara is a young girl who lives with her dad and her aunt. We discover that her mom died sometime back. The book starts with Saara narrating the story. She describes her life at present and then goes back in time and describes life when her mom was around. As the story goes back and forth we try to piece together what happened. At some point in the story, a new narrator comes in and continues the story and we see things from a different perspective. There are four parts in the story, and in the final part, it comes full circle, as Saara comes back and tells us what happened in the end.

Things that Fall from the Sky‘ is a beautiful story about family, love, loss, grief and its aftermath, and finding love again. It is also accidental happenings in life, both good and bad, and whether they have any meaning. I loved the whole book, but I loved most, the first part, which stretches to nearly half of the book. The child Saara’s voice is so beautifully rendered by Selja Ahava in that first part. It is unique, beautiful, authentic, charming. Saara tells us the story in the way only a child can – directly, with childlike innocence. She grieves in the way only a child does, and it breaks our hearts. Saara’s mom has a starring role in this part, and she was one of my favourite characters in the book. Talking about characters, I loved all the characters in the book, Saara and her mom and dad, and her Auntie Annu, and Krista who comes later in the story. I even loved Saara’s favourite sheep Bruno. Saara’s first description of Bruno always makes me smile 😊

“Bruno is tame because when he was little, I fed him with a baby bottle. Now he thinks I’m his mum, and when I walk past, he always comes up to the fence and bleats.”

Selja Ahava’s prose is spare and beautiful and we can feel the shift in voice as the narrator changes, which is beautifully done. There is even a difference between the voice of the young Saara at the beginning of the book and voice of the little bit older Saara at the end. That subtle change in voice is so beautifully rendered. It is pitch perfect.

I loved ‘Things that Fall from the Sky‘. It is beautiful, charming, moving, heartbreaking, life-affirming. I’m so happy I read my first Finnish book. I can’t wait to read more books by Selja Ahava.

I’ll leave you with some of my favourite passages from the book.

“I’ve considered time a great deal. I have grey cells in my brain. I use them to think about how time marches forward and heals. Grown-ups say time heals and that means that when time passes, what’s happened changes into a memory and you remember it less and less clearly. When you can hardly remember it at all, you’ve been healed…Dad says time heals is a load of shit. According to Dad, the only people who say that don’t understand anything about anything. They’ve never been through anything. And my grey brain cells think Dad may be right because, at least so far, nothing’s healed, even though the summer holidays have already started. And so I sit on the back seat and say ‘nothing’ and think about the healing power of time. To be on the safe side, I decide to remember Mum every day, before time has the chance to do too much healing.”

“In spring, the manor house groaned and creaked. The warmth brought the timbers to life and got the house’s blood circulating. It sounded as if someone were walking about all the time. This didn’t scare Auntie Annu. ‘Extra Great Manor is just stretching its limbs,’ she’d say. The groaning and creaking went on till warmth spread throughout the structure. Then the house settled down and the sound of steps upstairs went away…When a house is young, you have to look after it as if it were a child. It needs adjusting, patching up, care and maintenance. But when a house is, say, two hundred years old, it can look after itself. Everything that’s inclined to rot has already rotted. Everything that’s inclined to sink and split has already sunk and split. You just have to live in it nicely, which means living as people have lived there before.”

“Spring sets off tapping and popping on the roof; sometimes the noises go on for several nights before anything happens. The roof prepares for an attack, like an army: it moves and drips quietly. Then, finally, comes the night when the mass of ice that has formed on the roof works itself loose: it begins to move, a single sheet hundreds of kilos in weight, to slide, rumbling, down the tin roof. The chunks of ice fall past the windows on to the ground. The din is so great that, for a moment, I think the world is coming to an end. The loosening of the ice is followed by silence. The house is full of silence; the walls rise from wintry heaviness; the shed door opens again.”

“The ancient Greeks used to lower the gods on to the stage when the plot of a play got into a knot and the characters weren’t able to work it out themselves. Gods in white clothing in their little box, descending creakily to the middle of the stage with the help of a rope. There they could declare judgement. It wasn’t thought to be quite as skilful an ending as one where the characters solved their problems themselves, but it was better than nothing.”

“If the end of the world doesn’t work out, there’s always an alternative: Paradise. Auntie Annu said she heard Paradise will only come if all the people in the world are without sin for one moment. One moment would be enough, but it would have to be the same moment for everyone. A world without sin for one small, shared moment, and Paradise will pop out. A trumpet will sound, angels will swoosh and the world will end. I’m not sure about Paradise. I don’t trust angels… Sometimes, in the manor house, I used to lie in my metal bed and imagine ways of getting Paradise started. If everyone could be made to sleep at the same time, it might work, because you can’t sin when you’re asleep, even if you’re having a nightmare…Maybe not everyone wants Paradise. Maybe most people don’t want any kind of ending because they’re afraid of death. And that’s why Paradise doesn’t come, and things just happen. And perhaps, after all, that’s why the world goes on: because things happen. Overlapping, at the wrong time, at different times, in the wrong places. If everything were in order, as the angels command, if the angels said ‘don’t look’, and everyone obeyed, we would end up in Paradise with one blast of the trumpet. But the world goes on and life happens, because there’s always a person who peeks all the same. Someone forgets to watch the news, someone starts a quarrel when they shouldn’t, someone else just doesn’t feel like being good, and someone happens to be standing at the edge of the garden when a lump of ice falls. And that’s why we’ll never reach Paradise.”

Have you read ‘Things that Fall from the Sky‘? What do you think about it?

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