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Your Presence is Requested at Suvanto [Paperback]

Maile Chapman
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
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Book Description

4 Aug 2011

SHORTLISTED FOR THE GUARDIAN FIRST BOOK AWARD 2010.

In a remote, piney wood in Finland stands a convalescent hospital called Suvanto. Is is the early twentieth century and the patients, all women, seek relief from ailments real and imagined. The upper floors house foreign women of privilege, tended to by Sunny Taylor, an American who has fled an ill-starred life, only to retreat behind a mask of crisp professionalism.

On a late summer's day, a new patient arrives on Sunny's ward, a faded, irascible former ballroom-dance instructor named Julia Dey. Sunny takes it upon herself to pierce the mystery of Julia's reserve, but soon Julia's tightly coiled anger places her at the centre of the ward's tangled life...



Product details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (4 Aug 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099548674
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099548676
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 20 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 682,056 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"Exceptional... more than simply an exercise in chilling atmospherics... Chapman takes the women's - often seemingly petty - hopes and fears, and creates a fascinating portrait of group consciousness. A psychologically unnerving, elusive and readable book" (Financial Times)

"A gem; weird, vivid and acrobatic, its intricacies are sophisticated, its stance beguiling and complex. This is a writer of real power and aplomb" (Lucy Ellmann Guardian)

"This scary, peculiar story of institutionalised women is immaculately handled and builds to a disturbing but inevitable climax" (The Times)

"A beautiful, edgy and captivating novel" (Victoria Moore Daily Mail)

"An eerily brilliant, psychologically sharp take on the Bacchae set in a 1920s Finnish sanatorium" (Adrian Turpin Herald, Christmas round up)

Book Description

A brilliant and unnerving debut novel about the mysteriously ill patients at a remote hospital in Finland.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
By Mary Whipple HALL OF FAME TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
(3.5 stars) A sanitorium set in Suvanto in rural Finland, sometime in the late 1920s, has drawn female patients from all over Europe and America. Many are wealthy women who enjoy the specialized spa treatments and the chance to escape from their everyday lives for periods of up to six months. One physician asserts that "these are bored women....They like being sick." A young American nurse, Sunny Taylor, who has taken a job here to escape the difficult memories of her own life, is also hard pressed to be completely sympathetic with the self-indulgent, yet Sunny recognizes that they all do experience real pain--and they are all unhappy with their lives "outside." The arrival of Julia Dey, a woman with a serious infection, changes the atmosphere. Julia is often mean-spirited and sometimes deliberately cruel, and she creates chaos.

Gradually, the lives of the women and their difficulties unfold--many are friends from previous stays. Dr. Peter Weber, the physician in charge of the hospital, believes that most of their problems are gynecological, and he is developing a surgical stitch which he believes will cure some of their problems. This, in combination with hysterectomy, may lead him to fame, he believes-if he can get his research completed in this rural hospital. It is his surgery on one of the women which leads to the climax and the long denouement, as the conflicts demand resolution.

In several places throughout this debut novel, author Maile Chapman refers to the action of Euripedes' The Bacchae, and though the parallels between that early Greek play and this contemporary novel are not exact, many of the themes become clearer when considered in view of that play.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Superficially engrossing, but lacking depth... 8 Dec 2010
Format:Paperback
This is one of those books that constantly sits on the brink of becoming something truly engrossing, without ever crossing the boundary. Without doubt it is atmospheric, and an interesting set-up. There is a cool, passionless style that is interesting, and the basic premise is enough to pull you into the novel.

However, that said, there is less and less the further you go into the book. There is little arc to characters that are superficially absorbing, but subsequently turn out to have little beyond the surface. In fact, this accusation could be levelled at the whole book. It is superficially fascinating, but there is not enough substance below the surface to sustain it. Undoubtedly, Chapman is well-versed in what she writes about, but it seems she has a limited idea of what to write; various threads are started but not completed, various layers to characters are hinted at but not pursued.

Ultimately, this is a book to be initially admired but never loved - there is not enough by the end to feel you have either gained insight, or gone on an emotional journey of any kind. What remains, then, is well-written but ultimately slight.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Admirable but not for me 16 Oct 2010
By Simon Tavener VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback
It is not often that I find a writer whose work I can admire but who I don't want to read again.

Chapman can clearly write. She has a talent for creating atmosphere, evoking the elements and the seasons. She is not afraid to people her novel with unsympathetic characters.

However I don't feel that I want to explore any other books she goes on to write.

There were only a couple of sections where the unremitting greyness of the novel is pierced by bold colour - and they both involved blood. That vivid redness comes as such a shock to the reader that the writing of these paragraphs lingers in the mind.

Perhaps the subject matter put me off - it shouldn't but, as a male reader, I do not have the necessary insight into the female condition for the subject to resonate immediately. This is not to say this is a book just for women - but a male reader may have to work harder to fully engage with it.

Chapman is someone to watch - but I have to say that I will not rush to buy her second novel.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully Atmospheric 1 Jan 2011
By Mrs. K. A. Wheatley TOP 500 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback
Chapman's debut novel, set in a sanatorium in Finland in the twenties, is dark, atmospheric and beautifully written. Her sense of place and the seasons reminded me of the first time I read David Guterson's Snow Falling on Cedars, and is the highlight of an otherwise peculiar and often confusing novel.

I finished this a week ago, and it has returned to my mind several times since then, but I am still not entirely sure what happened. Much is hinted at, most things remain either unresolved or for the imagination of the reader to finish. In some novels this works perfectly. In this one I just felt there was too much going on and not enough that was concrete to pin anything down satisfactorily.

I really wanted to love this book. There were many things about it I did love. I thought the characterisation was strong, and the characters were intriguing, the writing style was lyrical and beautiful and the contrast between the natural world that surrounds the sanatorium and the unnatural world fostered within the walls was delicately handled and gave the novel a real edge. On the other hand I cannot say it was a complete success.

I do however look forward to reading whatever she comes up with next.
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