Monday, 27 April 2009

'Ei Kiitos' by Anna-Leena Härkönen

The heroine of 'Ei Kiitos', Heli, is 43 and married to a man with intimacy issues. He lacks sex drive. But Heli has enough to spare, and spends all her time trying to get her man into the sack. Slowly we see that the little time the couple spend in bed (not sleeping) belies deeper, more serious issues in the marriage. He spends his time in front of the pc, while she obsesses about sex. The relationship hits serious rocks when the couple's 13-year daughter leaves the marital home for a month long summer holiday in London. A holiday in Greece to celebrate their 15th wedding anniversary only adds pressure.

The style of the book is light, and it is meant to entertain as well as deal seriously with modern relationship issues. This is not a good combination. A third of the book is spent in a painfully open and detailed account of the many advances Heli has to make to get her husband to notice her, let alone to 'give it' to her. 75 percent of this is unnecessary. We get it. She wants sex with him, he doesn't care for it. Is he depressed? Is she unattractive? Is it him, or is it her?

If only the author had not felt the need to shock and titillate her audience with frankly too graphic sex scenes, the reader could have been rewarded with a gem of a book about modern marriage, in an age where divorce is easy and affairs are the norm. The message of the book that men and women both still thrive on old-fashioned, romantic love as well as on wild and passionate sex is lost amongst all the bodily fluids and unusual positions.

The 13-year-old daughter's departure amid arguments about cropped tops, tongue piercings and use of rude words, is a truly moving scene, one which shows that the author could have done something quite beautiful with the story if only she had not in the same breath moved onto a frankly crude lovemaking scene.

'Ei Kiitos', or 'No Thank You' has sold well in Finland, over 65,000 up to the end of 2008. Perhaps I've become too British, but I have to admit to being much more moved (and excited) by McEwen's library love scene in 'Atonement' than I was by the 30 or so in 'Ei Kiitos'.

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