I was just trying to read about Finland

>> Sunday, October 14, 2018

I read these two earlier this year, right before moving to Helsinki. My main interest in them was reading more about what was about to become my new home, which may be why they didn't really work for me.

TITLE: Sixty Degrees North: Around the World in Search of Home
AUTHOR: Malachy Tallack

Mallachy Tallack has spent a lot of his life in Shetland. Shetland is on the Northern Hemisphere's 60 degrees parallel. In this book he travels round the world, exploring the different places where this particular parallel hits land. First to Greenland and Canada, through Alaska, and then Russia, Finland, Sweden and Norway.

There are some interesting bits and pieces, but this was really not what I wanted. I've been finding this more and more in non-fiction, both in books and in TV, where it seems to be frowned upon to just have it be about the particular topic, and there's more and more emphasis on the person creating the work. You get a bit about the topic that drew you in and made you buy the book or watch the programme, but this comes along a big helping of "the journey" of the creator, or their musings on whatever... grief, the loneliness of modern life, environmental degradation. The thing is, most times, I don't care! That was the case here. The personal stuff was not why I picked up the book. I wanted to know about these places! Seriously, this approach seems to be everywhere. Have you ever searched for a recipe online and ended up having to read through paragraphs and paragraphs about how the writer's daughter loves this food and how the first time they made it it reminded them of their childhood? Well, that, but in a more literary style.

If the musings had been what I was after, I may have enjoyed this book. As it was, I didn't much. To be completely fair, there is a hint of what's inside on the back cover blurb. I should have read it more carefully and avoided.


TITLE: Icebreaker: A Voyage Far North
AUTHOR: Horatio Clare

In Icebreaker, Clare jumps at the chance to spend some time on a working Finnish icebreaker. Not while it's on shore for the summer, but right in the winter, as it trundles along freeing stuck ships and helping get them to where they need to go.

To an extent, this suffers from some of the same problems as Sixty Degrees North. I wanted to know about icebreakers, but even though pretty much the entire book takes place on an icebreaker, there wasn't enough about icebreakers! I read the whole thing and I don't feel I completely understand how the whole system works.

Plus, the book felt a little bit boring. There are pages and pages of extremely non-scintillating conversation with members of the crew. They all seemed like a nice bunch, but bless them, not great conversationalists. Underwhelming.



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