Book review: The Winter War

First-time novelist Philip Tier comes from the same ancient community of Swedish-speaking Finns as illustrator Tove Jansson, best known for the Moomin books.

The Winter War

Philip Tier

Serpent’s Tail, £12.99 HB;

ebook, £5.39

First-time novelist Philip Tier comes from the same ancient community of Swedish-speaking Finns as illustrator Tove Jansson, best known for the Moomin books.

But though some of the Moomin characters make a brief and troubling appearance in The Winter War — they are the star attractions of an imaginatively sterile children’s show on board a Baltic ferry — the two writers couldn’t be more different.

The luminous northern light of tradition has been banished to the margins of this funny, sharply observed and very readable tale of a middle-class Helsinki family going slightly mad during one of Finland’s long, ferocious winters.

The book’s cover blurb suggests that it will blast away our preconceptions of Scandinavian society.

But since the protagonist is a university academic who wrote an often-quoted study of Finnish sexual habits, and since one of the factors in the slow collapse of his marriage is a proposed kitchen redesign — really, not so much.


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