The story is simple and straightforward, and the author tells us on the opening page how it ends, but it's the journey there that counts for everything. The whole life of the main character, to whom in an external sense rather little happens, is unfolded in order. Big themes raise their heads and cross the path of the narrative - poverty and infant mortality, civil war and the brutal alternation of reprisals, the crossed purposes of love ... Somehow, the main character retains integrity, courage, and a sort of good cheer, even in the face of premature death. The intensity of life, although brief, is like the few summers that are imprinted on the heroine's mind.
There is a kind of similarity to, say, Independant People by Halldor Laxness, the better known Icelandic novelist, and those who like Laxness may feel that since so little of his corpus is available in translation that they can turn to Sillanpaa. That's a good enough reason for starting to read The Maid Silja, but Sillanpaa is definitely his own man, and this novel is a truly great and individual work.