Secret passages under my hometown

When someone writes about the streets where you live, you feel immediately predisposed towards them. You want to like everything they say, and even if you don’t like it, you will certainly have an opinion.

The woman who translates many of the Finnish books I really like, Lola Rogers, has just translated Secret Passages in a Hillside Town into English, so I got the Finnish original, Harjukaupunginsalakäytävät, out of my local library.  The back cover sounded even more intriguing: the novel has two endings, and whichever copy you start with, there is no way of telling which end you’ve got.

The harju/ridge does dominate the centre of Jyväskylä, indeed I can see it from my office window as I write this. The idea that there were secret passages underneath it is fascinating.


So our ‘hero’, Olli, and his teacher wife Aino, live a stone’s throw from my flat. But their life is rather mundane…. As is his midlife crisis that takes upmost of the first half of the book. I didn’t really warm to him, or his family, but maybe I wasn’t supposed to. His memories of childhood (including the lake in the photo above, which I can see from my living room window), seemed rather more interesting than his life now… at least at first.


This is exactly Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen’s main point. We don’t know what will happen as a result of the tiny little choices we make every day. Events can take a really rather dramatic turn, making you distrust everything you thought you could rely on, even your childhood friends, even your own memory.

To say any more would be to spoil the story, not least because I don’t actually know how your copy of it will end… Stick with it, it will certainly surprise you. And let me know when you have finished it, because I want to know what else might have happened…

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Posted in books, translation
2 comments on “Secret passages under my hometown
  1. janeishly says:

    What an interesting idea in terms of story structure! Also, I don’t think I’ve ever read anything set where I live – although one set in rural Herefordshire did reference a few places I knew quite well from living nearby.

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