2007, Maria Peura
At the Edge of Light was originally published in Finland in 2005, and I chose it to be the next novel in my self-imposed World Book Day Challenge. For quite awhile, I tried to borrow it via interlibrary loan and everyone kept turning me down. I had pretty much given up hope when it magically arrived in the mail from Washington University in St. Louis. “Hooray, it’s finally here,” I thought, as I eagerly started to read the first chapter. I needn’t have bothered to become so excited, because I only got through about thirty pages before I had to give up completely.
At the Edge of Light is the one of the most depressing novels I’ve ever attempted to read. The characters in this book are obsessed with suicide. If one person in a family kills himself, then it’s pretty much guaranteed that other family members will follow. Smooshing ala train seems to be a popular mode of self-destruction, as does hypothermia. Finland, being at the top of the world like it is, is pretty damn cold in the winter, so it wouldn’t be hard to freeze to death in record time. Good Lord! My days of suicidal ideation are long gone. Give me Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm any day!
I’ve always heard that Finland is notorious for depression and suicide, so I decided to investigate this further. In the ’90’s, Finland was #1 in teen suicide, and, along with Iceland and New Zealand, was in the top three for overall suicide rates. Finland also has problems with alcoholism and domestic abuse. These social ills have improved recently, though, due to better mental health resources and greater access to antidepressants and neuroleptic pharmaceuticals. Thank God for happy pills!
Here are some fairly current suicide rates. Why are former Soviet countries, like Slovenia and Estonia, so high?
It seems like Finland is kind of coming into its own now. In addition to having one of the coolest languages on the planet (Finnish is totally gender neutral), it’s also one of the most egalitarian societies in existence. Men and women are considered to be total equals, which is something every society should be striving for. If you are greeting a married couple, the wife should be greeted first. Amen to that! Wives should ALWAYS be greeted first, dont’cha think?
One of Finland’s most famous authors is Tove Jansson.
She wrote a bunch of children’s books about “Moomintrolls.”
Ms. Jansson died in 1991, but the Moomins live on.