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The following consist of excerpts from longer reviews. Omissions have not been marked. A link to the full review has been provided if available.
“Yes, Ms. Snellman, you certainly have quite a lot to say. And you say it with such a telling blend of crudity, irony, and poetry. Please accept my unreserved admiration.”
All this is just the hard enamel surface of your novel, of course. Underneath are the familiar, important themes: the talented, sensitive girl in the throes of becoming a woman; the lack of understanding between the sexes and between the generations; a woman’s right to seek, to experiment, to make mistakes, to create and to love freely.
Even a general message for us: that we should dare to crawl out of our oppressed and fearful burrows to blink in the cold, clear daylight where we really belong; that we should dare to discover there what our true limits are and where our purpose lies.
—World Literature Today
“Snellman’s prose can only be described as powerfully poetic and precise. Her integration of figurative language, play with language, and voice are utterly unique and compelling.”
Sonia O. Was Here by Anja Snellman has been described as “a woman’s reply” to the literary trope of a man’s odyssey to adulthood and self-awareness. A classic that still maintains its title as the highest-selling debut novel in Finnish literary history, this revolutionary novel is the perfect read for academics and activists alike.
The novel explores heavy themes and is not your typical Bildungsroman. Sonia’s childhood and young adulthood are defined by an absence of love and comfort, an abundance of emptiness, a magnetic pull toward rebellion and sexual and political exploration. Abuse, death, and grief haunt her life, and her journey to self-discovery threatens to consume her. But she survives every trial and obstacle and tragedy. She tells her story and makes her voice heard.
“Something absolutely essential would be missing from our literature without this book. Its language is inventive, and the book proudly takes its place in the literary canon, with refreshing abandon and lack of pretense.”
Sonia O. Was Here is a sweaty book that smells of life: dirty underwear, vomit, bodily fluids. This novel trembles with passion, panting, and heat with a breathlessness that was not expected from a woman back in the 1980s—and may still remain unequalled in Finnish literature.
Sonia O. doesn’t hold back, and her words haven’t lost their weight over the years. Back then, Sonia explored her body and let her body be explored, and Snellman entered the Finnish literary scene with a bang, their trademark red hair waving like a flag of revolution.
Finding your identity and place in the world is an eternal theme, and it’s not any easier for young women today than it was for Sonia. Even though the rules and the differences between genders have become less rigid, women’s sexuality continues to be monitored and controlled more strictly.
Phallocentrism is the main genre, while vulvacentrism is still waiting to take off.
—Omppu Martin, book blogger
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