Ann-Christin Antell: Heir to the Cotton Mill

Society balls, resistance, and romance amid the oppression of the early 1900s.

Author: Ann-Christin Antell
Finnish original: Puuvillatehtaan perijä
Publisher: Gummerus, 2022
Genre: commercial fiction
Number of pages:  368 pp.
Reading material: Finnish original, English sample, English synopsis

Jenny’s adult foster daughter, Martta, returns from Sweden to her childhood home, Turku, and finds work at the public library. It is the dawn of the 20th century, and Russian oppression is creating tensions in autonomous Finland.

The new director of the cotton mill, the agreeable dandy Robert, introduces Martta to Turku society, while Juho, a childhood friend who works at the shipyards, also appeals to her with his rough-hewn charms. As a working-class girl fostered in a bourgeois home, Martta feels lost: she doesn’t feel at home in society, but she doesn’t feel like she belongs to the working class either. How can she build herself a life between these two different worlds?

Heir to the Cotton Mill picks up the story of the Barker family that began in The Shadow of the Cotton Mill. It is now the early 20th century, and Finland’s cultural elite, with their strong sense of nationhood, find themselves at odds with Russia’s increasingly oppressive policies. Meanwhile, social mobility and working-class ideologies are on the rise. Upon its publication, Heir to the Cotton Mill immediately rose to number one on Finnish bestseller lists, with almost 20,000 copies sold in just two months.

“‘And what about you, Martta, how do you find local society? Do you feel at home among the cream of Turku?’ Martta was on the verge of offering a trite response, but then she looked into Aina’s honest eyes and sighed. ‘To be candid, I don’t really feel at home anywhere. There is no returning to the past, and in society I feel like a fish out of water.’”

Also available:
The Shadow of the Cotton Mill (Cotton Mill #1, 2021)

About the author:
Ann-Christin Antell