When I Forgot | Granta

  • Published: 01/08/2008
  • ISBN: 9781846270956
  • 130x20mm
  • 192 pages

When I Forgot

Elina Hirvonen

Translated by Douglas Robinson

Anna is on her way to the hospital where her brother has been sectioned when she falters, and, in that pause, her world splinters for the reader into a blazing display of memory and madness, of childhood security treasured and shattered, and of families blighted by psychological trauma – her brother’s and that of her boyfriend’s father, a Vietnam veteran. But, in Elina Hirvonen’s skilful hands, the grimness is illuminated by firecracker insight and flashes of surprising beauty. And, above all, there is hope.

This is an astonishingly assured and compelling debut novel about the love siblings have for each other, the past they share and the painful memories that shape their lives for ever. This title will especially delight readers of Andrea Ashworth, Maggie O’Farrell, Ali Smith, Kate Atkinson and Vendela Vida.

This apparently unpretentious book is in fact a sophisticated response to 9/11 and a delicately woven meditation on love and war.

Hirsh Sawhney, TLS

[An] exemplary first novel ... a book that whets your appetite for another one.

Archie Bland, Spectator

Elina Hirvonen's first novel, When I Forgot, shows how a family can suffer from the mental illness of one member. Her book, which has become the most translated debut novel in Finnish history, illuminates a dark corner of Finnish society ... There could be no better setting for a story of bitter love. Finland's granite tundra inspired its national epic, The Kalevala, where light comes into a darkened world, and the often brooding music of Sibelius: it is a country of savage elements and ethereal beauty. Hirvonen uses the setting to illustrate her flawed characters, the pristine Helsinki streets with their "stuccoed houses, tiny bars and delis", setting them in relief. For Hirvonen, the contrast between the idealised Finland and its imperfect reality is not physical but psychological - but it says something about the country that a novel exploring one of its greatest problems can double as a tourist brochure.

Caroline White, The Times

The Author

Finnish-born Elina Hirvonen has worked as a TV presenter and a chat show host. She has just finished her first documentary, which focuses on African migration to Europe. She is a passionate traveller and has journeyed independently through thirty different countries. When I Forgot is her first novel.

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