Troll: A Love Story by Johanna Sinisalo
Translated by: Herbert Lomas
Publisher: Grove Press
Source: Personal Collection – Purchased New
Reason for Reading: Jess at Park Benches
Remember Book Blogger Appreciation Week way back in September? It seems like ages ago now, but one of the best blogs I discovered that week was Park Benches & Book Ends, hosted by Jess and Chris a couple from Surrey, UK. The very first book Jess reviewed during BBAW was Troll: A Love Story and as soon as I read it I knew I needed both to read the book and to start following their wonderful blog. Jess’ recommendation turned out to be my first read of 2011.
Angel is a young, gay photographer making his way in contemporary Finland. One night, coming home from a night out with friends, Angel discovers a young troll sleeping between the dumpsters outside his apartment block. The troll appears to be cold and hungry (and absolutely adorable) so Angel, the bleeding-heart that he is, decides to take the creature back to his apartment. As he cares for and researches his new pet/houseguest, he grows steadily more attached to him and as his social and professional life starts taking some unexpected turns, Angel begins to rely more heavily on the kinship of his new friend. Slowly but surely, what began as an act of charity turns into a relationship of sorts as Angel and the troll begin an intimate bonding.
The book is a very quick read as it is told in alternating perspectives between Angel; his neighbour, an abused Filipino mail-order bride from the apartment downstairs; and an assortment of Angel’s friends/ex-lovers Ecke, Martes and Dr. Spiderman (just a nickname, nothing to do with the superhero) Each perspective is short, lasting no more than a page or two, and sometimes no more than a quick paragraph. Interspersed amongst the characters’ perspectives are short blurbs from both mythological and scientific texts with references to trolls that have evidently come from Angel’s research on the subject.
“Tales of trolls adopting human babies as their own cubs have been recorded everywhere from China to North America and its Indian tribes. Though, as a species, the troll never spread beyond the Bering Strait, it is conceivable that ancestors of the Indians migrating to Alaska via the Chukotskiy peninsula may have transported this narrative tradition with them.” Troll: A Love Story, page 30.
I have never been much for fairy tales, and surely what this story amounts to is a Finnish fairy tale, but, I have to admit, as odd as this story was, I enjoyed it immensely and in some sense found it really quite touching. I don’t like reading stories that have no basis in reality, but I think Johanna Sinisalo did a marvellous job of maintaining some semblance of truth. Because, with the exception of the fact that trolls are taken to be real creatures, there is nothing in this story that seemed to me to be outside the realm of possibility. It might be strange, but I am sure people fall in love with animals all the time. Ok, ok…I know, you are starting to question whether you should continue to follow my blog, but I mean come-on, you can’t tell me this doesn’t sound like a truly intriguing read.
This is Sinisalo’s first novel and for it she received the Finlandia Award, Finland’s most prestigious literary award. If all of her books are as intriguing and unorthodox as this one, then I shall look forward to reading more of her work.