Title: Land of Snow and Ashes
Author: Petra Rautiainen
Translator: David Hackston
Publisher: Pushkin Press
Publication Date: 3rd February 2022
Finnish Lapland, 1944: a young soldier is called to work as an interpreter at a Nazi prison camp. Surrounded by cruelty and death, he struggles to hold on to his humanity. When peace comes, the crimes are buried beneath the snow and ice.
A few years later, journalist Inkeri is assigned to investigate the rapid development of remote Western Lapland. Her real motivation is more personal: she is following a lead on her husband, who disappeared during the war. Finding a small community riven with tension and suspicion of outsiders, Inkeri slowly begins to uncover traces of disturbing facts that were never supposed to come to light.
From this starkly beautiful polar landscape emerges a story of silenced histories and ongoing oppression, of human brutality and survival.
I am always so interested in learning about places and events I know very little of. I’ve read a lot of books about World War Two but never one that is set in Finnish Lapland. The story follows two timelines. One is the diary of a Finnish soldier working as an interpreter at a Nazi prison camp in 1944 and the other follows a journalist, Inkeri, who has been assigned the job of reporting on the rapid development of Western Lapland a few years after the end of the war. However Inkeri is, in reality, following a tip that she hopes will lead her to finding out what happened to her husband, who disappeared during the war.
I was completely gripped by Land of Snow & Ashes. I found it deeply affecting, at times extremely harrowing and a fascinating insight into some truly shocking historical events from the not so distant past. It brings to light the oppression the Sámi people suffered and endured at the hands of the Nazi’s and also from many others. I knew nothing about this specific colonisation and found it eye-opening and saddening. The sections of the book set at the prison camp are also deeply upsetting – I had to take some breaks in my reading because of how vividly and hauntingly Rautiainen depicted the brutality and mindless cruelty of the seemingly endless horrors of WW2. Despite all of this, Land of Snow & Ashes is not relentlessly bleak. The writing and imagery is stunning and finds a sense of hope even in the darkest of times. The setting is also portrayed in a lyrical yet starkly intense manner. It tells a thought provoking and entrancing tale of grief, power, violence and survival in unthinkable circumstances. Absolutely stunning.
I kindly received a copy of the book from the publisher. My review is entirely my own honest opinion.
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