I picked up this book quite by chance, but the premise sounded intriguing.
Gunnar Huttunen buys a small mill at Suukoski in Northern Finland shortly after the end of the Second World War. He says he is a widower making a fresh start. However, the small community find him very strange; apt to swift mood changes, and a figure of fascination to the youngsters when he howls and imitates animals and other community members. His behaviour over time makes him fewer friends and more enemies, and eventually he finds himself being locked up for insanity. The early part of the book is almost comic; but from here the comic takes a back step and there is a sinister edge to the action as it unfolds. Can Gunnar save himself, and how?
The writing in this book is simplistic, and fresh. The characters are drawn from their actions and unique behaviours - Mrs Siponen who falls down some stairs and takes to her bed declaring herself paralysed so she can take advantage of her laziness, the hospital doctor who has a nervous habit of always polishing his glasses, Doctor Ervinen who regales Gunnar with his tales of hunting but cannot bear Gunnar's reciprocating imitations of wildlife. The characters are all sharply drawn as much by what we are not told as by what we are of their ways of life and habits. We do not need to know their backgrounds for them to become `real' to us. Can Gunnar remain true to his own self, or does he have to conform in order to survive?
This is a great book; funny, sad, poignant, witty, clever; all at once. The writing is fresh and clever. Great stuff.