Saturday 28 January 2023

Book Review: The Red Book of Farewells by Pirkko Saisio (LGBT Fiction)

Title: The Red Book of Farewells
Author: Pirkko Saisio
Publisher: Two Lines Press
Publication Date: 25 April 2023 (2003)
Pages: 312
Format: eBook - PDF
Genre: LGBT Fiction
Source: ARC via NetGalley

One morning in 2002, on an island off the coast of Finland, the narrator Pirkko Saisio tells her editor she’s accidentally deleted her latest manuscript, a book called The Red Book of Farewells. Whatever that book was is gone, but in its place is this story of a life: her life. And the lives of those around her—family members, student radicals, actors, and lesbian lovers in underground bars. It’s a story of leftist in-fighting, broken relationships, and finding new paths.

Pirkko Saisio’s brilliant autobiographical novel, in Mia Spangenberg’s tender translation, is a contemporary classic of lesbian desire and politics. Composed as a series of farewells—to her mother, girlfriends she thought she’d spend her life with, and finally her daughter—the novel guides readers through Finland in the late-twentieth century. It’s a world where art and communist politics are hopelessly intertwined; queer love is an illegal force of creation and revolt; and a heart-to-heart conversation with the activist playwright Bertolt Brecht is a mere dream away. Playful and mysterious, The Red Book of Farewells is a work that stoically embraces the revolutionary potential of moving on.

The Red Book of Farewells was a fascinating autobiographical novel written in a lyrical, dream-like style that flitted back and forth between different points of time to tell the story. Knowing it was based on the author's experiences probably added an extra layer of depth to the narrative, and it was interesting to glimpse what life was like for LGBT people in Finland back in the late twentieth century. I would certainly be keen to read more works by this author in the future. Recommended to fans of LGBT fiction and autobiographical fiction with a dreamy edge. It gets four stars from me.

I received this book as a free eBook ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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