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

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.

GENRE:

Young adult/coming-of-age/magical realism

PAGES:

237

FOR THOSE WHO LIKE:

  • Multicultural fiction
  • Magical realism
  • Nostalgia
  • The Beatles

THINGS PEOPLE MIGHT NOT LIKE:

  • Slightly disturbing occurences
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