Okay, this was one of the few books I really enjoyed reading this year. It got me out of my reading slump like a magnet attracts iron, and I finished the last 33% of the book in one sitting. Can you even believe that?
Once I finished reading the book, I headed over to GoodReads to mark the book as Read and to give it a 5 star rating. And to my pleasant surprise, the average rating this book has received on GR (as of 22nd June 2018) is 3.53. Can you even believe that???
Lesson learnt: Quit judging books by their size and their GR ratings.
First things first, the cover. I love the colour scheme, because of two reasons. It’s pleasing to the eyes, and it also summarises a major chunk of the story. Blue and yellow are two colours that I will clearly associate with the book whenever I think of it in the years to come.
The plot of ‘Secret Passages in a Hillside Town’ by Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen goes like this:
In a small hillside town of Jyväskylä, Olli Suominen – publisher and discontented husband – is constantly losing umbrellas. He has also joined a film club. And Greta, an old flame from his teenage days, has added him on Facebook. And he suffers from slow continuum attachment. He is also going through a mid-life crisis.
Olli’s life becomes more and more entangled with the lives of his friends from his pre-teen and teenage days and Greta’s. Thanks to this, Olli and his wife (Aino) and their son are dragged into a major conspiracy of revenge and romance. Can Olli successfully walk through this icy path created by his former friends, a path that leads away from his family and towards his teenage love? Does he really want to relive the past? What exactly was the dynamic shared by Olli’s friends, Greta and Olli? Can he be sure that Greta is who she seems to be?
Intrigued yet? No? Read further.
Note: For ease of reading, I will refer to ‘Secret Passages in a Hillside Town’ as ‘Secret Passages’.
What I liked about this book… many things. Let me take you through them one by one.
Firstly, let me introduce Olli’s former love interest, Greta Kara to you. Greta Kara is now the author of a fictional book titled ‘A Guide to the Cinematic Life’. This book aims to introduce the reader to the magic of incorporating cinema into the daily drudgery of life, taking life one notch higher to a blissful paradise on earth. ‘Secret Passages’ includes many texts from ‘A Guide to Cinematic Life’, as Olli is shown to be reading Greta’s book at the beginning of the book. How did Olli come across this book written by his former love interest? Ironically, as a wedding anniversary gift from his wife. How savagely romantic.
So, what’s special about ‘A Guide to Cinematic Life’ and why did I like the passages included from that book in ‘Secret Passages’? Because, the writer in me totally related with Greta Kara’s writing style (concocting random theories and stories by infusing an element of fantasy and making everyone actually see sense in them). (Not trying to compare myself to the author, not at all. I would never be in that league) And hence, if you look at the Kindle edition of ‘Secret Passages’ that I received for review, you will see that most of the highlights are the ones from ‘A Guide to Cinematic Life’.
I’ll share one of the few excerpts from ‘A Guide to Cinematic Life’ that I loved a lot.
A person’s life doesn’t consist of just one story but of many, some of them consecutive and others overlapping. While one story is a comedy, another may be a melodrama, or a thriller. It’s important to recognize every incipient story’s genre and let the deep cinematic self develop the right state of mind to supersede the slow continuum.
Another aspect of the book that I loved is the whole unpredictability of the plot. Part of the unpredictability stems from the insanity of the main character, and the other from the genius of the author.
An aspect of the book that I found appealing and repelling at the same time is (SPOILER ALERT) the secret passages: an interconnected network of underground tunnels that Olli and his friends had stumbled upon in their summer vacations. I loved the idea behind the secret passages (sci-fi/fantasy). But the writing was atmospheric enough to actually make me feel like I WAS in the passage. Claustrophobia and nausea set in even though I read the book while sitting in my airy bedroom. Which is a compliment to the genius of the author and a shame to my nervous and digestive system. (SPOILER ALERT END)
What I didn’t like about this book is the repetition of Olli always losing his umbrellas somewhere. It got a bit boring, until Olli received the umbrella he really wanted. (Okay, I’m not giving any more spoilers)
I give this book a 5/5 star rating and recommend it to lovers of the genre romance and fantasy. To those of you who have read this book already, kindly send me a quick comment here or a message on any of my social media networks. I made an important observation regarding the name of one of the characters (Yes, I’m finally not giving any more spoilers!)
Note: Thank you Pushkin Press and NetGalley for sending me an e-review copy of this book!