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Safe harbour in the end
on 3 November 2012
As Shakespeare expressed it in the first scene of A Midsummer's Night Dream, 'the course of true love never did run smooth.' It certainly didn't for Kaisa, the young Finnish heroine of the story. From the moment she meets and falls for the Englishman of the novel's title, at a British Embassy reception in Helsinki at the very start of the tale, we suspect two things. One is that by the final page, location 4271 on the Kindle, she will have got him to the altar. The second is that Peter, the handsome naval officer whose hand during their first dance slips without hesitation from her waist to her butt, does not think in terms of marriage. The reader guesses that, in Peter's eyes, Kaisa is simply an easy lay in a Finnish port. The pages between start and finish are filled with misunderstandings, protestations of love, trysts, absences and reunions over the space of four years. An emotive strand running throughout is Kaisa's relationship with her divorced parents, particularly with her wildly unstable father. We can understand how this unsteady background intensifies the uncertainty of her relationship with Peter. She's at sea metaphorically, as much as he is literally. Does she truly love him? Does he truly love her?
'The Englishman' by Helena Halme is a love story, simply told. The style of writing appears to be without artifice. It is easy to believe that Kaisa's story closely reflects the author's own experience of long-distance love and cross-cultural courtship, despite the usual caveat added at the end asserting that the all the characters are fictitious. If it really is fiction, then the writer has been skilful in creating a story which reads as though it's written by the alter ego of the naïve heroine herself. Whatever the case, it will appeal to readers who like romances in which they are told exactly what the heroine is thinking, feeling and even wearing - yes, details of dress and appearance are very important to the narrator - moment by moment until she finally gets her man.