Frans Eemil Sillanpää

THE LAUREATE: Frans Eemil Sillanpää was born in a village in Finland, where he, purely by luck, started attending school. He went to Helsinki to study medicine, met a girl at a dance and married her, and started writing. He died in 1964. There doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of information about him, but hey, he’s Finland’s only laureate.

WHAT I’M READING: People in the Summer Night, which the internet tells me is his best book by far.REVIEW: People in the Summer Night describes the goings-on of a few families who live around a river out in the sticks in Finland. It’s mostly the same LET ME SING YOU THE SONG OF MY PEOPLE novel we’ve seen a dozen times already, except this seems to be taking place at a more permissive time in Finnish history. Helki, a girl living at home with her parents over the summer who met a boy at school. She invites him over to spend a few days on her parents’ farm, and not only does he sleep in the same building as her, but he does so with almost no supervision. Most of these peasant life novels don’t have room for that kind of sexual freedom.

Anyway, the story is pretty low-key. It’s basically the events of two days in the lives of these few people around this river. There’s the visit previously alluded to, where the girl’s guest’s friend shows up and invites the two of them and her sister to go to a restaurant. A neglectful log-carrier gets into a fight with a younger guy that ends with him dead. A woman across the river is about to give birth, but the midwife isn’t around. One of the nearby farmers goes around painting and missing the lost days of his youth. Everything comes to a satisfactory conclusion: the murderer is arrested, the baby is born, the couple decides to get married, the painter goes back to his family.

RECOMMENDED: Yeah, again, it’s a charming little book. I’d pick something else up by him if it was cheap enough.

WHAT’S NEXT: Jose Saramago’s The Cave

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