A hardy schoolteacher takes on a job at a remote island school where nothing transpires to be as it is. A crystal-clear novel about survival by one of Finland’s most acclaimed and beloved writers today.
Nobody comes out of this life unscathed. The only thing that can take us by surprise is the way each of us will be broken.
It’s 1947 when Elna Suorajärvi takes on a teaching position at a remote school close to the Soviet border in northern Finland. The school is on an island, accessible only by rowboat in summer and on skis in winter. On landing on the island with her few, worldly possessions, it transpires to Elna that nothing is the way it should be: the school is a dilapidated barracks abandoned by the Germans, her pupils are traumatized from the war, and a debilitating illness ravages her tired body. However, the resilient Elna gets on with teaching —the only way of life she knows—even in the freezing winter, when she resorts to teaching from her bed in the classroom. The solitary nights invite disturbing thoughts about her estranged, abusive sister and scarred family history. But after the long winter must come the respite of summer. Throughout the powerful narrative spanning a school year, we hear Elna’s unforgettable, deeply humane voice and her resilience and survival, ob-served with Kinnunen’s psychological acuity.Through Elna, Kinnunen also paints a portrait of the soul of a nation in the postwar, reconstruction era with his hallmark concision, eloquence and sparks of wit.
DARK MOONS confirms Kinnunen as a masterful storyteller whose power lies in the voice-driven, delicate depiction of the human condition and in his wise, compassionate and insightful narration. This new novel deepens his mastery in portraying remarkably strong women whose voices are not heard in history or textbooks.
English Sample Translation 40 pp
‘Kinnunen is interested in the narratives to be found in the shadow of the broad arc of Finnish history. Dark Moons is a piece of this history, told through the resilient female main character.’ — Helsingin Sanomat newspaper
‘Today’s reader will identify with Elna’s desperate circumstances as she approaches retirement age: difficult illness, no home, no savings.’ — Kirja vieköön blog