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Five great books set in FINLAND

2nd December 2019

Finland is the latest place for us to visit in our ‘Great books set in…’ series. Five great books set in Finland.

A famous Finnish saying: ‘Ei kysyvä tieltä eksy’ – ‘who asks for the road doesn’t get lost’. 

Five great books set in FINLAND

If you’re unsure, you should ask for advice. In general, Finns don’t ask much advice because they want to be self-sufficient and also, because they don’t want to disturb others….

The Man Who Died by Antti Tuomainen

A successful entrepreneur in the mushroom industry, Jaakko Kaunismaa is a man in his prime. At just 37 years of age, he is shocked when his doctor tells him that he’s dying. What is more, the cause is discovered to be prolonged exposure to toxins; in other words, someone has slowly but surely been poisoning him.

Determined to find out who wants him dead, Jaakko embarks on a suspenseful rollercoaster journey full of unusual characters, bizarre situations and unexpected twists. With a nod to Fargo and the best elements of the Scandinavian noir tradition, The Man Who Died is a page-turning thriller brimming with the blackest comedy surrounding life and death, and love and betrayal, marking a stunning new departure for the King of Helsinki Noir.

House of Orphans by Helen Dunmore

Finland, 1902, and the Russian Empire enforces a brutal policy to destroy Finland’s freedom and force its people into submission.

Eeva, orphaned daughter of a failed revolutionary, also battles to find her independence and identity. Destitute when her father dies, she is sent away to a country orphanage, and then employed as servant to a widowed doctor, Thomas Eklund. Slowly, Thomas falls in love with Eeva … but she has committed herself long ago to a boy from her childhood, Lauri, who is now caught up in Helsinki’s turmoil of resistance to Russian rule.

Set in dangerous, unfamiliar times which strangely echo our own, the story reveals how terrorism lies hidden within ordinary life, as rulers struggle to hold on to power. House of Orphans is a rich, brilliant story of love, history and change.

The Brothers by Asko Sahlberg

At only 122 pages, this is a short but intense novel set in icy, rural Finland, 1809.

Erik and Henrik are two brothers who fought on opposite sides in the Russian-Swedish war, and have returned to their mother’s snowed-in farmhouse. Erik is married to Anna, the woman Henrik loved. Their power-struggle is complicated by their scheming cousin, Mauri, whom they both despise but who is not as ineffectual as he seems.

A multiple narrative told in turns by each of the main characters, this is heavy with foreboding, and in the latter half violence and revelations burst forth. The writing is spare but intensely visual. Reading it is like spending two hours in the company of a brooding, atmospheric, Scandinavian late night movie.

Icebreaker: A Voyage Far North by Horatio Clare

‘We are celebrating a hundred years since independence this year: how would you like to travel on a government icebreaker?’

A message from the Finnish embassy launches Horatio Clare on a voyage around an extraordinary country and an unearthly place, the frozen Bay of Bothnia, just short of the Arctic circle. Travelling with the crew of Icebreaker Otso, Horatio, whose last adventure saw him embedded on Maersk container vessels for the bestseller ‘Down to the Sea in Ships’, discovers stories of Finland, of her mariners and of ice.

Finland is an enigmatic place, famous for its educational miracle, healthcare and gender equality – as well as Nokia, Angry Birds, saunas, questionable cuisine and deep taciturnity.

Aboard Otso Horatio gets to know the men who make up her crew, and explores Finland’s history and character. Surrounded by the extraordinary colours and conditions of a frozen sea, he also comes to understand something of the complexity and fragile beauty of ice, a near-miraculous substance which cools the planet, gives the stars their twinkle and which may hold all our futures in its crystals.

The Summer House by Philip Teir

The light greenery of the early summer is trembling around Erik and Julia as they shove their children into the car and start the drive towards the house by the sea on the west coast of Finland where they will spend the summer. From the outside they are a happy young family looking forward to a long holiday together.

But look under the surface, and their happiness shows signs of not lasting the summer. On the eve of the holiday, Erik lost his job, but hasn’t yet told the family. And the arrival of Julia’s childhood friend Marika – along with her charismatic husband Chris, the leader of a group of environmental activists that have given up hope for planet Earth and are returning to a primitive lifestyle – deepens the hairline cracks that had so far remained invisible.

Around these people, over the course of one summer, Philip Teir weaves a finely-tuned story about life choices and lies, about childhood and adulthood. How do we live if we know that the world is about to end?

Andrew for the TripFiction Team

Do you have a favourite read set in Finland? Have we missed an obvious choice? Let us know in the comments below!!!

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