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Thella Johnson

Peace

With an angry mob raging outside, Elina Kansa spends a few intense days locked in a corner shop in Kemi together with her stepfather and a stranger, whom she involves in the vivid retelling of her family’s turbulent past. This is the story of three generations and two nations on both sides of the Baltic, the inland sea with the brackish water. Here we meet grandfather Tapani whose fate was sealed by a roach trapped in a shoe and an encounter with the bearer of a pair of small red boots, but we are also introduced to mother Marjatta, who in her search for happiness moved across the sea not once but twice, and finally granddaughter Elina who becomes our companion through this flamboyant family epic that takes us from the last days of WW2 to the refugee crisis of 2015.

Peace is a tender portrayal of an unforgettable family and the post-war people of Sweden and Finland, two countries close as siblings. It is also a Bildungsroman set against the backdrop of both major and minor world events, exploring the human effects of wartime and peacetime.

Thella

About the author

Johnson

Thella Johnson (b. 1979) is a journalist and was previously Swedish Radio’s correspondent in Helsinki. She has been praised for her radio documentaries about the Troubles, the civil war in Sierra Leone and the conditions for workers in China’s quarries and jewellery factories. She is also a musician and together with her husband she runs…

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Finland: Johnny Kniga

With an angry mob raging outside, Elina Kansa spends a few intense days locked in a corner shop in Kemi together with her stepfather and a stranger, whom she involves in the vivid retelling of her family’s turbulent past. This is the story of three generations and two nations on both sides of the Baltic, the inland sea with the brackish water. Here we meet grandfather Tapani whose fate was sealed by a roach trapped in a shoe and an encounter with the bearer of a pair of small red boots, but we are also introduced to mother Marjatta, who in her search for happiness moved across the sea not once but twice, and finally granddaughter Elina who becomes our companion through this flamboyant family epic that takes us from the last days of WW2 to the refugee crisis of 2015.

Peace is a tender portrayal of an unforgettable family and the post-war people of Sweden and Finland, two countries close as siblings. It is also a Bildungsroman set against the backdrop of both major and minor world events, exploring the human effects of wartime and peacetime.

Reviews

a splendid, extraordinary debut novel

I ponder Thella Johnson’s debut novel, trying to find an adequate way to describe her method. Two thirds into the novel, she kindly lends me a hand. Rubik’s cube. Evidently /… / Thella Johnson’s novel explores a family history. It is full of brackets, retakes, shifts in perspectives and other nuisances that in most novels indicate that the author has felt slightly unoriginal and decided to complicate an otherwise trite plot. That isn’t the case with Peace.  Here the antics are well integrated with the narrator’s particular attributes. To continue borrowing Johnson’s own insinuations, every Rubik’s cube has a centre around which everything is twisted. In Peace, her name is Elina and she tells her story from inside a shop in a suburb of Kemi in Finnish Lapland /… / During the first twenty pages of her debut novel, Thella Johnson indicates a style that you don’t normally associate with Swedish debutants, but with important international writers. She keeps the readers on their toes while she combines global perspectives, existential dilemmas and everyday anecdotes at breakneck pace. One can easily recall Salman Rushdie, Dubravka Ugresic, Antonio Lobo Antunes or why not Monika Fagerholm. And Johnson controls the gear stick of this Finnish post-war equipage with excellent command /… / It is the way in which she manages the many small anecdotes that sets this novel apart from many other debuts /… / There is much, much more to be captivated by in Peace. The playful elements of history interlaced with the more momentous. This is perhaps most significantly illustrated through Elina’s temporary work as a crevice controller. She inspects cracks to issue warnings if anything is about to go wrong: “Those who dwell upon cracks, will always keep themselves busy”, Elina says, in a splendid, extraordinary debut novel.

Dagens Nyheter
I am mostly impressed with Thella Johnson’s prose

Peace is a whirlwind of a story where comedy and gravity interlace, but there is a dark undertone that gradually intensifies. I am mostly impressed with Thella Johnson’s prose. It candidly moves between poetry and tall tale in a way that sometimes recalls Monika Fagerholm. But Johnson has an entirely unique voice, much like that stubborn neighbour Finland which becomes this novel’s main protagonist.

Sveriges Radio Kulturnytt
A book that is drastic, dramatic, melancholic. And funny.

A book that is drastic, dramatic, melancholic. And funny. A tenaciously portrayed story of what can happen to people when the war has finally ended /… / Peace is a family epic about tormented human beings in three generations from the end of WW2 in 1945 to the immigrant crisis in 2015. Narrated in a vertiginous tempo by Tapani and Helmi Kansa’s somewhat chaotic granddaughter Elina Kansa, born in 1979.

Västerbottens-Kuriren
It is a strong debut by Thella Johnson

It may sound like a sombre, serious book, but Thella Johnson offers us so much in her vivid and exuberant family chronicle. The reader is invited to laugh and there are several surprises in store /… / It is a strong debut by Thella Johnson who has previously made a name for herself as a praised investigative reporter and expressive musician. Now she proves that she is also a gifted storyteller, and she adds a colourful, imaginative language to her narrative.

Norrländska Socialdemokraten

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