fifty-one.

Baby Jane by Sofi Oksanen (2005)
 What is wrong with Piki? She used to be an outgoing person, had plenty of friends and partied all night. And now she isn’t capable of buying groceries or even take out the trash. Her girlfriend tries everything, but watches Piki slowly fading. They start a successful business together; providing phone sex and shipping used underwear to their customers. Their relationship is dwindling and it doesn’t get better when the girlfriend discovers that Piki’s ex is doing the laundry and shopping for her.

Sofi knows how to get each sentence to punch you in the guts. I was only able to read a couple of pages a night because they are all so heavily loaded with emotions. And as the story unfolds and you get to know more about Piki and the girlfriend, you know it’s not going to end well. But still there are plenty of surprises.

It could easily have been a perfect read, but the last couple of paragraphs ruined it. It reminded me of all the stories of my students which are nicely built-up and then end terribly because they run out of time.

I’m still amazed that only one book by Sofi has been translated into English. Luckily they are found in many other languages.

sixty.

Stalin’s Cows by Sofi Oksanen (2003)
(Stalinin lehmät)

Anna is half-Finnish and half-Estonian. Her mother is Estonian, takes her there often during the 1980s, when it still was Soviet. But her mother won’t let Anna be Estonian, because Estonian women are whores in the west. Anna’s father is rarely present, he still works in Soviet, but every time he comes home, Anna’s mum finds new evidence concerning his whores. Anna won’t allow her body to be more than 50 kgs.

This book has yet not been published in English, but it definitely should be. Oksanen’s third novel, however, Purge, has been published in English and it is my next purchase for sure.

It was really hard to read about Anna who suffered from bulimia. If I had read this a few years ago, it would have been thinspiration. But now it was like being haunted by a bad memory; all the rules, lies and feelings came back, so much of Anna was at some time me. But it is also a reminder of how far I have come and for that reason alone, I’m glad I read this book.

The Estonian part of the story is also a reason why I’m glad I have read it. It partially follows Anna’s mother from when she met Anna’s father and until Estonia’s independence. And it also goes further back than that, back to World War II. It is a beautiful portrait of the fear and absurdity in Soviet. And the attitude in the west towards people, and especially women, from the former Soviet. And it made me miss Finland and regret that I never learnt the language.

(This is without doubt the hardest and most personal post I have made and I have the urge to delete parts of it, but I’m trying to be brave.)