The Englishman: Can love go the distance? (The Englishman series Book 1) Kindle Edition
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I found the writing very poor, like a badly written diary of a teenager. The language is unbelievably simple and repetitive. The author mainly just lists events: "He flew to Helsinki, then they spent a week together, then he flew back to UK. It rained. Three months later Kaisa took the ferry and train and bus and a horse cart and unicycle to UK and then she came back. Then she took some more money from her dad. Then she was angry but didn't tell anyone at whom or why, and then she called Peter. And after the call they hung up."
There is hardly any dialogue and very little story or character development. Nothing actually happens in the book, there are a lot of hellos and goodbyes at airports, Finnair bus rides, car, ferry and train travel, but it is all just listed very superficially. There are some meatballs to remind us that it's a Scandinavian story. Lots of rain and sleet to presumably make it "noir". And cassettes with 80s music which I suppose is meant to create some atmosphere. None of it works.
The main character Kaisa is deeply unlikable. She is a needy wet-rag and a user. She continues to live in her ex-fiance's aunt's flat after treating him appallingly and eventually escapes to Sweden without paying the rent. A nice way to thank them all for their generosity. She also takes her father's money at every turn and slags him off behind his back and then lives in his house for free, but won't ever have a proper conversation with him about their relationship. She suffers from a bout of diarrhoea and is deeply wounded that the world doesn't stop and no-one gives a sh*t.
She won't make any effort to build a relationship with his father's new partner who we don't know much about, only that she giggles. Kaisa is a coward when it comes to being straight with his first fiance and treats this honest and decent man really badly. There are several times she wants to confront Peter about things like his cheating, him not wanting to commit to their relationship, the Navy not allowing him to marry her and she doesn't. Most ridiculously she is too much of a wimp to tell her mother and sister, the only reasonably decent people (although also very one dimensional) in the book, about her English wedding.
She is also a shallow and boring person, or at least you don't really get much of an idea of her personality. She is not funny or witty, she is not generous or kind, or brave. She behaves really stupidly getting purposely drunk and embarrassing Peter (and Finnish people in general) at an important Navy work-do. I have no idea why Peter would fall in love with her or want to marry her.
But then, maybe they are well suited since Peter is not very likable either. He doesn't seem to have much of a personality. The main thing we learn about him is that he sources some weird coconut toiletries from the US. Particularly in the beginning of the book he comes across as very immature and selfish, but he does improve ever so slightly towards the end. But not enough to make me want to read about him ever again.
There is no depth to any of the other characters either. Most of them are introduced fleetingly as the book is mainly about the back and forth travel the two do between Finland and UK and the letters and calls, the contents of which are not really revealed, just that there are lots of calls and letters.
This could have been an interesting and emotional story, but that would have required much better writing and a heroine that the reader could have cared about. A brave, strong and honest Finnish girl that the country is full of, unfortunately Kaisa is not one.
I happened to be in Finland in 1982 when part of this story takes place. It brought back vivid memories of that time: the food, the places, the difference in culture. All of that and more gives you a sense of Finnish life and how it differs from the new life that Kaisa was headed for.
The prose flows well, and a little bit simplistic, which makes the book ideal for an international audience.
Certain things are quite unique about this book. A contrast between Finnish and English mentalities. I thought the story explored nicely what it is to be young, and insecure. To me Kaisa came across as self-centrered, at times even selfish. Ironically, she criticised her father for failures she couldn't quite see in herself. Kaisa's family tensions have definitely added to the drama of the story.
I didn't learn much about Kaisa outside her romance, even her friendship with Tuuli seemed quite superficial. Yet, I still wanted to know how her relationship with Peter would develop. Because I think it's easy to make a herione likeable, but it's far more difficult to portray your character in a way that makes her seem like a real person. The author Helena Halme totallly excelled at this.