Olli Jalonen: 14 solmua Greenwichiin [14 knots to Greenwich]

30 December 2008 | Mini reviews

Olli Jalonen, 14 solmua Greenwitchiin14 solmua Greenwichiin
[14 knots to Greenwich]
Helsinki: Otava, 2008. 381 p.
ISBN 978-951-1-23014-4
€ 34.40, hardback

The ‘knots’ in the title refer to the 14-part control device in a competitive expedition that the participants have to use to check in at the control points. The Finn Petr Järvi leaves London together with his scientist friend Graham and Graham’s wife Isla on a year-long contest, held in honour of the 350th anniversary of the scientist Edmund Halley. The teams have to traverse the globe along the Greenwich zero meridian line using the means of travel available in the 18th century – walking, sailing, horseback riding. Petr’s younger brother Kari, the novel’s principal narrator, joins the team later. Love, a death, a birth, the meaning of kinship and roots entwine on the journey, of which Kari and Isla are declared the winners. One of the themes is the celebrity hype of our time – it is possible to manipulate the truth, regardless of science and facts. Jalonen (born 1954) won the Finlandia Prize in 1990 for his book Isäksi ja tyttäreksi (‘As father and daughter’) and this, his ninth novel, also became one of the six finalists competing for the 2008 Finlandia Prize. The novel is a carefully constructed, deep and rich narrative which maintains the suspense from start to finish.

(First published in Books from Finland 4/2008.)

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