The second book from the #FinnCultBlxBookshelf series with Eppu is Sofi Oksanen’s Norma (2015).
Described in the English publication as “the hair-raising mash-up of feminist X-Men, gothic fairy tale, family saga and biting social criticism that is taking Europe by storm”, let’s see what our in-house critic had to say.
Sofi Oksanen: Norma (2015)
“Sofi Oksanen is one of the most decorated authors in Finland in recent years, particularly for her third book Puhdistus (2008, Purge). I had read that, but Norma was only my second Oksanen and I was very curious to see what she had become in the years after the huge smash hit.
The title of the book refers to its heroine, Norma Rossi, a young woman seemingly living in modern day Helsinki. She is dealing with her mother’s sudden death by her own hand (or so it seems), her own health problems (or so they seem), and a strange man referring to unpleasant issues related to Norma’s mother.
However, Norma is not normal, she has hair with a life of its own and with it come also other issues, some good, some bad. Norma’s hair also enhances her senses, and it is almost a superpower, but not quite. Hair is also important for most of the events taking place, for the trouble Norma’s mother was in. But there are also other, even more sinister things happening in Norma’s surroundings.
Oksanen weaves the fantastic cleverly with the real world, the fantasy becomes a bigger and bigger part of the book as the story moves on. I was not sure if I liked it or not at first, but eventually it all made sense in a strange way. Norma’s story is also strongly about being different and how different and weaker people have been mistreated in this world, how they have been/are being judged and exploited by those with more power.
The book deals with rather hard issues, but at the same time it is somehow light and easy to read, you can read it like a crime novel or then not. I liked the ambiguity of it all. Norma is available as a translation in quite a few languages if your Finnish is not good enough to tackle it yet!”
– Eeva-Maria Viitanen (Eppu)
Sofi Oksanen is a Finnish-Estonian novelist and playwright. Purge was her first novel to appear in English. She has received numerous prizes for her work, including the Swedish Academy Nordic Prize, the Prix Femina, the Budapest Grand Prize, the European Book Prize, and the Nordic Council Literature Prize.