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Review: Summer Fishing in Lapland - Juhani Karila

Genre: magical realism

Published: Pushkin Press, July 2023

My Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Summer Fishing in Lapland has been out for a few years in its original Finnish and (my native) Dutch translation, and has been on my radar ever since. The recent popularity boost that came with its translation into English finally pushed me to pick it up though. What I found was a unique and charming tale that almost defies placement into a standard literary category. We have fantastical elements of Scandinavian folklore (which I'm always a sucker for), a lively literary portrait of a remote Lapland-village, and a memorable cast of gruff but lovable villagers, bonding together to help one of their own break a curse, related to a pike in a pond... Add to that a narrative tone that is almost matter-of-fact and business like about all the insanity that goes down with this tale, and you get a book like few I’ve read before. Somehow, these elements come together as a whole to create an engaging and surprisingly funny read.

We follow Elina, a young woman who returns to her small home-town to fulfill the peculiar yearly tradition she’s abided by; a fishing-trip in which she has exactly three days to catch the pike that inhabits the local pond. This isn’t a leisurely trip however; following the words of a curse that was placed on her, if she fails to complete this task, both she and the love of her life will die.

After a few successful years of catching the pike, this year’s journey is complicated by the appearance of some interesting characters in and around the village. From a murder-detective who sees her as a suspect in an open case, to the supernatural trickster creatures form Nordic Folklore that enjoy meddling in her plans.

This book feels very northern-European to me, so I’m curious as to how it will do overseas with people who might be less familiar with the mythology behind it. I’m really hoping it finds it audience, as it's a memorable, humorous, slightly bizarre read that I had a great time with all together.

Recommended for fans of magical realism works of the likes of Neil Gaiman or maybe Yann Martel.

You can find this book here on Goodreads.


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