Book Review | Will I leave my husband, do I want to be a mother and will I succeed as a single – Anna Karhunen’s debut novel solves a woman’s big choices in different ways

The description of the life of a Helsinki woman in her thirties is smooth but cliché.


Anna Karhunen: If. Space. 260 s.

Here the debut novel has a juju: it consists of four stories in which the main character, a Helsinki woman in her thirties, makes four different decisions about her life.

While the juju isn’t very peculiar, it adds thought to the reading process as you begin to compare the causes and consequences of the protagonist’s alternative paths.

Its author, editor Anna Karhunen, 40, told of his own path in the HS interview, which revealed that he was diagnosed with MS ten years ago.

A serious, possibly rapidly progressing illness made Karhusen wonder what he really wants in life and whether it is always worthwhile to keep striving for it, to move forward.

Also Ifthe protagonist of the novel does so at the beginning of each story. She is in a relationship, but it is not satisfactory at all. What should be done?

Should I leave? Or wait for the situation to improve? Should I try to have a child? Would becoming a family save a relationship?

Protagonist not only reflects, but also acts in different ways. I do not want to fully open up the various solutions for fear of plot revelations, but Karhunen points out on several occasions that a partner who is submissive and even prone to violence must always get rid of it.

Another weighty piece of advice is that a woman should stick with a friend, if there is one.

Motherhood is also dealt with a lot, as each story starts out of the same situation: maternity invitations, in which the protagonist observes both mothers and, for various reasons, childless acquaintances.

Reproduction is thus one of the most important choices facing a woman, in addition to her own safety.

I notice as I read, I wonder if the same person can even, in principle, end up with such different solutions as If present.

Now the same woman (educated, crouching in poorly satisfying creative class jobs) stays with her violent husband in one story until she is forced to flee. In the second, he becomes ill before the situation escalates into anxiety and gets the courage to leave therapy.

Do such different solutions not, in principle, require a different character structure?

However, I end up thinking that this is not essential in the novel. Rather, I believe Karhusen wants to present the life of a modern Western woman, where even new possibilities are glimpsed by ancient footsteps.

At some point in her life, a woman still has to take a stand on the same things as in the early twilight of the human race: does she want a partner, is this worthy of what to think about motherhood.

While these situations are confusing for today’s women and the solutions are difficult, in terms of alternatives, modernity certainly obscures history from now on.

Sadly If brings out the thinness of modernity in the protagonist’s relationship. Nothing in it seems to have changed over time: a man’s work and hobbies take precedence over anything else, family life remains the responsibility of the woman.

Karhusen the narrative is fluent, but a rather clichéd and in some places dull description of the life of a prosperous middle class. There are company little Christmas parties, punches, Tinder dating and chicken strips for dinner.

There’s a lot in bed, and while the straightforwardness always delights, the scenes that highlight the clumsiness of the nudes are a bit embarrassing. Perhaps the purpose is to show that sex is not the most important thing in a relationship.

The last two stories have the most surprises, both positive and tragically tragic.

At the latest, they make sure that no matter how a woman (or a man at all) chooses, an easy life is never promised.

The Helsingin Sanomat award for the best debut work of the year will be presented in November.



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