I think I might have to appoint myself Stewart's Official Literary Stalker, as I first saw it reviewed by him on booklit blog, though I haven't yet read his full review. Being a fan all things Finnish (Helsinki is my favourite European city) I thought I'd better give it a try.
Shortly after the second-world war Gunnar Huttunen arrives at a small Finnish town and buys the old mill. Soon he has the saw working and is making planks for the local populace. He's making a living and restoring the mill, and the locals are happy to have a handy supply of cut timber and soon after, an actual mill for their grain.
Huttunen has a problem, though. During winter he likes to howl, and he has what can only be described as some strange social habits. Soon the villagers take against him, mainly due to the many nights of sleeplessness caused by his howling.
A visit from the local 4H society (some sort of local authority advocate for growing vegetables) brings Sanelma Käyrämö into his life. Smitten by her, he courts her in his own way, which is unusual to say the least.
Doubly translated from Finnish via French it ought to sound odd. And there is a certain unusual style to it, but it absolutely rings true. Newly published in English by Canongate, it's well worth a read.
One of my favourite books of recent years was Paasilinna's The Howling Miller, and when I finished it I vowed to go out and buy the only other book of his that has been translated into English, The Year of the Hare. For whatever reason(s), I didn't, and then the only bookshop in town that stocked his books in English stopped doing so. I put it on my Amazon wish list and promptly forgot all about it.
Such joy, then, so see it in the library. Short-lived joy, however, because unfortunately it's no Howling Miller.
Vatanen, a newspaper reporter, and his photographer colleague are driving back to Helsinki and arguing about whether to stop for the night or push through. They inadvertently hit a young hare, and thus starts Vatanen's titular year. He abandons the car and takes the leveret under his wing.
The story is right on the button: middle-aged professional man giving it all up and roaming the land getting into adventures, but it doesn't quite gel. Foremost is the translation: I introduced our leporid friend in the same way as the translator, first as a "young hare" and then as a "leveret." As such, it doesn't have the same smoothness of Miller and some of the phrasing didn't read natural. Dialogue is the one thing that seems to trip up people trying to find the 'right' English way of saying things. Here it sounds stilted. It's not helped by the translator pointing out in his introduction that he has chosen to use English currency rather than the Finnmark. That really jarred, especially when everything else is authentically Finnish.
Still, I do like Finland and the Finns so I can't say it's that bad. The descriptions of the country and its countrymen help, and so I'm glad I did read it, especially as I waited for the library and didn't pay the NZD35 to buy it.