Do you like reading books by Women in Translation? Do other people’s relationships fascinate you? Do you like reading about exactly what life is like in other countries? Do you make it an aim to support small presses?

If so, this book is for you, and there’s a copy as a prize for one lucky blog reader!

About the author, from the back of the book:

“One of the leading names in contemporary Northern European fiction, Anja Snellman has authored 25 novels, with translations into more than 20 languages. Her debut, “Sonia O. was here”, remains the highest-selling first novel in the history of Finnish literature”.

You can find out more about the publisher, New Terrain Press, here.

Anja Snellman – “Continents”

(24 March 2019, kindly sent to me by the publisher in return for an honest review)

First of all, this small paperback is a lovely, well-made object and the cover excellent. I’m glad I was sent the physical object as well as the e-book. Impeccably translated, it takes a forensic view of a couple’s journey through what the impulsive, artistic Oona describes as “the continents of love”, from sultry Asia, where it’s mostly about the bedroom and you learn a lot of information, not all useful, to, perhaps, the threat of Antarctica.

Originally published in Finnish in 2005, it feels like a very European (both in its general feel and in its openness to discussing matters of a sexual nature) and modern (the pulls that all couples feel come to the fore) and can be devoured in a couple of sittings or savoured. It’s highly competent and well-written and there’s not even a hint of the noir about it, which is refreshing for this reader!

The couple’s social milieu as they grow and age is gently but expertly skewered: Oona’s friends are described, for example, as people

who were always on their way to or from the opening of a performance art event or an art exhibition, who had a hammock in their bedroom, who cut their own hair, and whose T-shirts proclaimed Feminist Fatale. (p. 54)

As they travel through Australia, the land of small children and discovery, and Europe with its new hobbies and redecoration projects, Oona’s cartoon couple, whose books she lives off, Rainbow and Scoop, echo her and Alex’s journey, their cats pass through their lives (this is sensitively done and not too massively upsetting) and their children grow up and react to them, in a skilful interweaving. Oona wants a room of her own, and Alex grows a beard in some desperation: you root for them but also enjoy their life being exposed in this clever and highly technically competent novel with a warm heart.

Would you like to win a copy of “Continents”? It’s a quick read and a good one and the publisher has kindly offered a copy to one of my readers. Simple post a comment making it clear you’d like to win and I’ll pick a winner at random on 15 April and contact you for your address.

(Comp small print: you will need to give me your address to pass to the publisher, this will not put you on any tricky mailing list and you can rest assured they will delete your address once they’ve sent out the book. If you really don’t want them to have your address, you can give it to me and I’ll post your copy on, but I do know and trust the publisher!).