Johanna Laitila: Lilium regale

“They exchanged words, offering them to one another like poems or the entrails of an elk.”

Author: Johanna Laitila
Finnish original: Lilium regale
Publisher: Gummerus, 2019
Number of pages: 350 pp.
Reading material: Finnish original, English sample, English Synopsis

Else is a daddy’s girl, but her father doesn’t come back from the war.

When Lapland burns, Else flees to Sweden with her grief-stricken mother and her grandmother, who tries to hold the family together. There she meets Inga. The young women, on the threshold of adulthood, embark on linguistic and corporal self-discovery, and they begin to offer each other words in their own languages, like poems.

When the worst happens and everything ends, Else’s story is only just beginning. Working as a maid in a pharmacist’s house, she discovers something that will change her entire life. In the war-burnt north, overshadowed by her dangerous uncle and her broken mother, something is growing – something so strong that it will have the power to overcome everything in its path.

Johanna Laitinen’s first novel, Lilium regale tells the story of a life-long love, the chain of generations and silenced stories. The sensuous language, coloured by a strong northern dialect, and the taut, gripping plot have enchanted the book’s readers.

‘The book is a surprise of such magnitude that I’m a snowy owl if it isn’t the best debut of the year!” – Literature blogger Leena Lumi

“Nothing could possibly seem or feel the same if father didn’t exist anymore. Wouldn’t the river burst its banks, enveloping the valley and Kuuvanmäki Hill with its mantle or the sky be torn open, the will-o’-the-wisps glimmer a signal from the opposite shore and the wild orchids linger in mother’s eyes. Wouldn’t Algen Asteria appear standing beneath Else’s window, a blanket of snow cover the cloudberry wetlands, the midnight sun fall into the sleeping river with a flash, smoke rise from the moss and rusty northern lights tear the white night asunder.”

About the author:
Johanna Laitila