“The past is the past. No good will come of digging it up.”
The story starts with a funeral. Norma Ross’s mother is run over by an underground train in the middle of Kallio, Helsinki’s Kreuzberg. Was it suicide or murder? When her daughter encounters a stranger at her mother’s graveside, she is determined to find out more. But it isn’t easy to know what to believe, not least since parts of Norma’s own account seem pretty unbelievable. For example, whatever is the matter with her hair?
“When she noticed a lock that had escaped from her ponytail twisting like a corkscrew, she panicked and glanced at the clock on her phone…”
You might have read or seen Sofi Oksanen’s Puhdistus/Purge already; the Finnish-Estonian author’s stories about women’s limited control over their own lives and bodies can be brutally painful, but gripping. I read Norma, her latest book, when it was first published in Finnish two years ago. One copy got swiftly passed round the women in my family, from Joensuu on the eastern border to Tampere in the west and back again. Now you can read it in English, as it was published last month. Her translator, Owen Witesman, has also translated Salla Simukka’s fabulous Lumikki/Snow White series, and Juhani Aho’s The Railroad/Rautatie.
You can buy the book and read a longer extract of the first chapter on the English publisher Penguin’s website. You won’t put it down until you know what really happened.