Monday, 30 October 2017

Norma - Sofi Oksanen

My knowledge of Finnish writers, prior to reading this book, extended no further than Tove Jansson who I believe wrote in Swedish anyway! So this was very much a first for me. However a cursory google of contemporary Finnish authors reveals an impressive list with Sofi Oksanen occupying a prevalent place. 

I am always impressed by a translator’s ability and I would imagine Finnish is a complex language to learn for English speakers so I am doubly impressed by the work here. But it did strike me most forcibly that I was reading a work in translation. It had that curious, indefinable kind of stutter that renders the flow of the narrative uneven.

The actual premise of this book I found to be very original and quite quirky. Norma has ‘supernatural’ hair’ and whilst that may sound like a contemporary advertising strap line for hair products nothing could be further from the truth. Norma’s hair is sensitive to mood, changes her own and others,  plus it moves and grows of its own volition. That alone could put this book firmly in the magical realism category. However the hair tendrils alert their owner to the idea that her mother’s supposed suicide may not be quite as it seems. And thus we have a complex thriller on our hands.

I’d love to continue by saying what a fabulous book this is because the basic premise has it all but whether the translation contributes to this or not I found the book overall a tad confusing and some of the characters muddled. I was frequently referring back to look at the relationships and connections. The plot was a complex one and offered some food for thought regarding how women can be taken advantage of. But it lacked cohesion and the pacing was patchy. The conclusion was - inconclusive!! 

However I wanted to find out what happened and I did enjoy the book, mostly because it was unusual and quite unique. My thanks to Readers First for a copy of this book.

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