Rose Recommends: November | Popular Music from Vittula

Woooo, monthly recommendation post! I like to use these to recommend books that are a bit off the beaten path, and this one fits that description in more ways than one.


Popular Music from Vittula by Mikael Niemi is a Swedish book from 2000 that became a big hit in Sweden but not so much here in the states. The reason I know it is because I took a Scandinavian children’s literature class in college – which I’ve talked about on this blog like 5 times now – that introduced me to many wonderful books I wouldn’t have otherwise known about. Another such introduction was to the delightful Moomins, who I blogged about a few days ago, so I decided to share another Scandinavian treasure with you all.

Popular Music is a coming-of-age story set in 1960s Pajala, a small town in the north of Sweden near the Finnish border. Rather than a continuous fluid story line, each chapter is a vignette from the main character, Matti’s, childhood. And it gets weird sometimes.

In a faraway land of snow, ice, myths, and vodka, it’s no wonder this novel has touches of magical realism. I don’t want to give too much away, but Matti’s childhood is not a “normal” one. However, despite its (at times) other-worldliness and (at times) disquieting nature, the story is captivating and humanizing. The odd and disquieting moments – including mass amounts of dead mice and a sexualized confrontation with ghost – add to the story’s mystique rather than disgust or terrify you. The translation is gorgeous – though I don’t speak Swedish, I’m sure the original is also beautiful. Sometimes translations can be clumsy or cumbersome to read, but not this one.

I highly recommend this book for anyone looking for a winter read that is not your average YA story. It will send chills through you in more ways than one and make you ponder the nature of growing up.


Young adult/coming-of-age/magical realism




  • Multicultural fiction
  • Magical realism
  • Nostalgia
  • The Beatles


  • Slightly disturbing occurences

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