Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen returns to the blog today with a lovely story set in the Finnish countryside. Please read on for my review of
Secret Passages in a Hillside Town
I loved Rabbit Back Literature Society from this author, and found some of the otherworldliness felt very appropriate to what I’ve come to know about Finland and the folklore, but here, the few unanswered questions left in the first seem to multiply and spawn anew, as this book is ultimately (I think) about faces presented to the world in different situations – and the secrets those faces may hide, for whatever reasons. Short chapters, many references to ‘cinematic’ selves, ie: the faces we present to the world on social media, versus the ‘true selves’ and can one actually be exchanged for, or completely overwhelm the other in any given interaction. And the interactions are wonderful here, as Olli is trying to find yet another lost umbrella, deal with his wife and teenage son and manage the intrigue that is Greta – an old flame he’s recently reconnected with on Facebook.
Perhaps at times the story becomes a bit too symbolic and obscure, with the questions about how real life imitates film, or vice versa, with a rather obscured vision of reality, dreams, film and again, that cinematic face presented: while most flowed reasonably well during the read, in retrospect, there were so many moments that were gems in their own right that faded into a sort of blanket of ‘remove’ in impressions. In fact, the author cleverly (and quite clearly) comments that while readers are having a hard time connecting to or trying to discover why they should care about Olli’s journey, that in a hundred years it won’t matter, and thus brings up the ‘should it matter now’ thought. I’m still puzzling that one out – just where did I find a need to engage with Olli, or was I simply ‘watching’ him puzzle out dreams from reality, truth from fiction, and who is presented to him from who really is standing there. It’s still not entirely clear – but I have to say that the joy here was in the something totally different that keeps me questioning long after the last page.
Title: Secret Passages in a Hillside Town
Author: Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen
Genre: Comedic Elements, Literary Fiction, Mystery Elements, Romantic Elements, Setting: Finland
Published by: Pushkin Press
Published on: 18 September, 2018
Source: Publisher Via Edelweiss
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An atmospheric love story with a twist by the author of The Rabbit Back Literature Society
In a small hillside town, Olli Suominen - publisher and discontented husband - is constantly losing umbrellas. He has also joined a film club. And Greta, an old flame, has added him on Facebook.
As his life becomes more and more entangled with Greta's and his wife and son are dragged into the aftermath of this teenage romance, Olli is forced to make a choice. But does he really want to know what the secret passages are? Can he be sure that Greta is who she seems to be? And what actually happened on that summer's day long ago?
Absorbing, atmospheric and often very funny, Secret Passages in a Hillside Town is an intoxicating novel about the grip of the past and the romance of what has been lost.
A copy of this title was provided via Publisher Via Edelweiss for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges: