Lindy Burleigh

Flight of the Finns

House of Orphans

By

Fig Tree 336pp £17.99 order from our bookshop

Helen Dunmore knows what goes into the telling of a good story: solid characterisation, a suspenseful plot, and fluent narration. House of Orphans, like her earlier book The Siege, is an historical novel but doesn’t read too much like one since you are not overwhelmed by attention to period detail or irritated by glaring anachronisms. In this respect, it is in the tradition of A Tale of Two Cities, and the author sets the story in early twentieth-century Finland, during a time of political turmoil, in order to explore the conditions under which people can be seduced by extreme politics and terrorism – a subject with obvious resonance today. The novel opens in 1901, when the Finnish were mounting a fierce resistance to the growing ‘Russification’ of their country, at the same time as they were being influenced by the revolutionary socialism of their Russian neighbour. A brief historical context is helpfully appended, as most readers won’t be aware of the events that led up to the assassination in 1904 of Bobrikov, the pro-Tsarist Governor-General of Finland. It’s no surprise to learn that Dunmore has lived in Finland, and her familiarity with the landscape and people augments her research, giving the novel an admirably authentic texture.

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • He has 'raised his country’s international influence to unprecedented heights, while at the same time jailing hundr… ,
    • 'It is one of those nice linguistic ironies that English should have attempted to make sex respectable by clothing… ,
    • 'He was to my mind the father of the idea that journalism – yes, even journalism – can have a moral dimension to it… ,
    • RT : Feeling old, as exhumes a piece I wrote 37 years ago. But a joy to see Kathy O’S there too. Here’s why:… ,
    • 'Enough of his character remains just out of reach for Barnes to relish the challenge of imagining him.' Patrick M… ,
    • RT : I did a thing about the new Penguin Book Of Oulipo for this month’s Literary Review: @Lit_Review,
    • 'Moore’s work has been so influential that the former ministers who provided him with much of his information now r… ,