Review: Troll: A Love Story by Johanna Sinisalo

TAMMI, 2008/2000

From Goodreads:

Everyone has their rough nights, but things have clearly taken a turn for the surreal when Angel, a young photographer, finds a group of drunken teenagers in the courtyard of his apartment building, taunting a young troll. Trolls are known in Scandinavian mythology as wild beasts like the werewolf, but this troll is just a small, wounded creature. Angel decides to offer it a safe haven for the night. In the morning Angel thinks he dreamed it all. But he finds the troll alive, well, and drinking from his toilet. What does one do with a troll in the city?

Angel begins researching frantically. He searches the Internet, folklore, nature journals, and newspaper clippings, but his research doesn’t tell him that trolls exude pheromones that have a profound aphrodisiac effect on all those around him. As Angel’s life changes beyond recognition, it becomes clear that the troll is familiar with the man’s most forbidden feelings, and that it may take him across lines he never thought he’d cross. A novel of sparkling originality, Troll is a wry, peculiar, and beguiling story of nature and man’s relationship to wild things, and of the dark power of the wildness in ourselves.

Receiver of the 2000 Finlandia Prize, debut novel of the author, and generally recommended by readers, I must admit tha the blurb in the back didn’t particularly drawn me in. I’ve never been interested in trolls and my experience with Finnish science fiction has been like a wacky rollercoaster – not that good. Nevertheless, I bought this book in October when visiting the Helsinki Book Fair with good friend of mine. She highly recommended me to get the book and as it was cheap, it ended traveling home with me. And since then it has been sitting in the TBR pile.

I’m not going to lie: I started to read this book because it was the second shortest book in my March TBR pile. The Finnish version has abruptly 270 pages and the layout of the pages leaves a lot of white space making it a real page-turner.

This book, however, completely surprised me. I started reading it on Wednesday night and picked it up the next morning, finishing it before midday. The narration is a mixture of first person narration, long quotes of books (either real or fictional), and news articles (real articles adapted to the story). The articles and passages of books gave more insight on the impact that the discovery of trolls have had on the society. Besides following the life of Mikael, or Angel as he is referred to in the local lgtb scene, it features the perspectives of his former lovers. In fact, notwithstanding the mail-order bride living next door, all of the characters in this book had or had had a relationship with the main character. Which makes it quite odd.

The story reads easily, and can be read as a description of a man who finds a wild beast and brings it home. However, there are a lot of symbolism in the book and the Troll of the book could also stand for a lie, a secret. The book discusses themes such as humanity, love, freedom, and morality which all make it a highly interesting book with various interpretations. For me, the book had some a few faults, some of which can be forgiven in the name of style. The explicit sexuality did throw me off in some points, but in the end it didn’t bother me as much as I had expected. All-in-all, the story drew me in and I really enjoyed it.

The book has been translated into English under two titles: Troll: A Love Story and Not Before Sun Down (literal translation of the Finnish title). From what I gather, the book was published under the later title in the UK in 2003, but that the title was changed for the US market where it was published a year later. Personally I prefer the UK title but based on Goodreads, the US seems more popular. The translation of both version have been done by Herbert Lomas.


 I’ve locked him in here. I’ve tried to capture part of the forest, and now the forest has captured me.

For more reviews, go read A Striped Armchair‘s thoughts on the book here and Bookslut‘s here.


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