|Juha / Juhani Aho / Tiina Saarelainen|
Classic. Love Triangle. Plot twist.
STORY: Juha is an older man, living in a small village with his wife, Marja. Marja is much younger than Juha and beautiful. Lately they have not been getting along. Marja has been calling Juha names and she has been living for awhile in a small house that Juha built for her. When a young, strong, foreign man passes through the village on business and stays the night with Juha and Marja, a love triangle forms that threatens to tear their marriage apart.
Juhani Aho is famous for writing the story Rautatie (Railroad), also available in selkokirja format from Opike press, in 1905. Juha was published years later in 1911 and still remains a classic today. The tale is particularly apt, as it is set it what was then Finland under Swedish rule, and also set partly in Russian Karelia.
LANGUAGE: The story itself is 83 pages long with additional pages of grammar exercises at the end. A great reason to read books from Artemira press is that on the bottom of every page are difficult words with definitions in selkokieli, so there's no need to even have a dictionary while reading. This makes reading their books a more relaxing and smooth experience as opposed to feeling like one is studying while reading. Even though this is a classic, it reads like a modern selkokirja - there is lots of dialogue, but no puhekieli or dialect (unless explained in the vocabulary section). At the end of each chapter are 2 - 3 reading comprehension questions. These are a good way to make sure that the reader understood what happened during the chapter before moving onto the next. The beginning chapters are long at around 5 - 10 pages in length, but the later chapters are shorter at 3 - 5 pages in length. The answers to all of the reading comprehension questions and grammar exercises can be found on the publisher's website.
This book is rated a B keskitaso (around 1200 words) by the publisher and this reader agrees. Based on the page length and reading comprehension this book is ideally suited to a B2.1+ level. While a B1 level could certainly read this, they may find themselves looking up words not covered in the definitions at the bottom of the page, or looking up those same definitions for extra help.
CHARACTERS: This book is told in third person from the perspective of three characters. Juha begins the book, an old man who loves his wife and live in a small village in the forest with a cow and trees and river nearby. Marja is his young wife, who has never known any other life than with Juha and finds herself young and beautiful while living out her days with an old man who has lost his looks and walks with a limp and bow-legs. When travelers pass by she dreams of the lives and stories of places she has never seen. The third character is a businessman named Shemeikka, passing by Juha and Marja's home. Young and strong, the couple is charmed by his stories and words.
While this is a classic book, the love triangle that exists between the three can be seen in contemporary books and movies and even in real life today.
WHY YOU SHOULD READ THIS BOOK: Juhani Aho is a classic and very well known author in Finnish literature. This is a good story and contains a plot twist that alone makes the story worth reading. More than this book itself, I recommend checking out any books from this publisher, Artemira. They have Finnish selkokirja in three difficulty levels from a variety of authors, so finding the perfect combination of plot, author and reading level is easy. They can be purchased as print books or PDF versions at two different price levels. For a review of one of their difficult level books, check out my review of Laulu tulipunaisesta kukasta by Johannes Linnankoski.
Thanks to Artemira for generously providing this book for review.