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Your Presence Is Requested at Suvanto: A Novel
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Your Presence Is Requested at Suvanto: A Novel

3.31 of 5 stars 3.31  ·  rating details  ·  245 ratings  ·  61 reviews
Sunny Taylor is an American nurse who hides behind a mask of crisp professionalism at a Finnish convalescent hospital called Suvanto. On a late-summer day, a new patient arrives on Sunny’s ward, and soon Suvanto’s reliable calm begins to show signs of strain. As summer turns to fall, and fall to a long, dark winter, the escalating menace of Your Presence Is Requested at Su ...more
Paperback, 280 pages
Published May 24th 2011 by Graywolf Press (first published March 30th 2010)
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Austen to Zafón
I picked this up off the "new books" shelf at the library, knowing nothing about it. I liked the cover and the reviews on the back made it sound enthralling and spooky, atmospheric and insular. Well, it certainly was atmospheric and insular, taking place at a remote women's rest home in 1920s Finland during the winter. The snow, the darkness, the repetitive bland food, and little news of the outside world all made me feel claustrophobic. The story focuses on several women and one particular nurs ...more
From my book review blog Rundpinne:[return][return]Intelligent, philosophical and beautiful, Your Presence Is Requested At Suvanto by Maile Chapman is a delicately woven tapestry of the women who live and work at Suvanto Sairaala in Finland with special emphasis on the Orvakki Ward. Chapman uses the changing seasons in Finland to correspond with the changing emotions in her characters, especially Nurse Sunny Taylor, and her reaction to the long winters in Finland. Set in a remote area of Finland ...more

Your Presence is Requested at Suvanto, Maile Chapman

“Sunny withholds judgment but she knows, sometimes this happiness, this passive acceptance, sometimes it is the beginning of decline.”

Sunny Taylor is an American nurse who seeks employment in a private hospital in Finland, escaping bitter memories and looking to soothe them in the cold and remote location. Thus she begins her work at Suvanto, a spa-like hospital focused on caring for wealthy women who are there for various reasons. Some need g
Robert Beveridge
Maile Chapman, Your Presence Is Requested at Suvanto (Graywolf Press, 2010)

I have always had a thing for difficult novels. I count among my favorite books of all time both Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian, or, the Evening Redness in the West and Wendy Walker's The Secret Service, two books that no one in their right mind would ever take to the beach. But the rewards for struggling through archaic language or crazy diction are well worth the effort of reading such books when the writer is a true
Neil McCrea
In the 1989-90 school year I took an amazing course at The Evergreen State College, The Classical World. It was one interdisciplinary course that filled up my entire credit load for the year. We studied Greek, Roman and early Christian history, literature, philosophy and art, along with a language module studying Latin. This course had a dramatic impact on my future intellectual thought and literary endeavors. I made friends that year who are still very, very dear to me. One student, whom I fai ...more
I don't know how to rate this book. The liner notes called it an intellectual thriller but I call it an intellectual puzzle. It was ponderous until about halfway through and I only kept reading because the atmosphere was a little Gothic, almost hallucinatory and I wanted to see where on earth that would lead. About halfway through the tone and texture changed and seemed, though it was actually describing more tension, more relaxed. There were many assumptions on the part of the writer--including ...more
Anne Sanow
Wonderfully creepy, atmospheric, claustrophobic, and elegant all at once. Maile Chapman succeeds in conjuring a setting so palpable as to be a character in its own right (almost at the risk of being more interesting than some of the human characters). And in general, I love what she's doing with language: the tone has a formality to it that stops short of the stilted voice that some writers think they need to assume when writing historical fiction; I love the little pops where Chapman speaks out ...more
Review copy from Publisher

Expectations. I think my expectations led me astray with this novel. Reading the advance praise for Your Presence is Requested at Suvanto set the stage for impossibly high standards. Seeing authors like Audrey Niffenegger say it was "unnerving and full of gorgeously written surprises and frightening marvels", and Junot Diaz claim that Chapman gave us "an eerie gift of a novel" using words like hallucinatory, ominous, and gothic to describe it, I couldn't help but think
What is it called when a book makes you feel like you're right there? This one has it, and "there" is super creepy and very Shining-esque. However, the Overlook Hotel had some likable characters while Suvanto is teeming with Shelley Duvall's. The horror, the horror, the horror.

The writing is a joy and from the lyrical prose unravels a smart, atmospheric mystery. Eventually. And maybe too smart. Frankly, I don't know WTF just happened. On the bright side, there is no chance my review contains spo
BEWARE of spoilers. One man's bookflap summary is another man's spoiler.

Could not decide whether to give this three or four stars.

Yes, I liked it a lot in certain ways. But not in every way.

This is a story set in an isolated convalescent hospital for women in Finland. Most of the action happens during winter, when the patients and staff are further cocooned indoors against the cold.

The lead character, Sunny, is an American nurse at the facility, which is called Suvanto. She is reserved, has dif
Linda B
This is a very odd book. Although I read the entire book, I am still not sure what it is about. There is a "rest home" of some sort and women come there to stay and be treated. At first I thought it was a nursing home for the elderly, but then women started to come to have babies and female surgery.

I felt like I was just outside of the story and that suddenly things would become clear, but that never happened.
Would've been better without the many mistakes in Finnish history and language.
Received this book as a first-reads through Goodreads around April 20th, 2010.
Finally finished this book! It was hard for me to continue reading it for more than 30 minutes at a time, which generally causes me to loose interest in the book. Someone asked me what the book was about when I was only a few chapters from the end and I really didn't know how to respond other than to say it is about a Hospital in Finland that has a part of it devoted to what are called "up-patients" in a setting simila
Definitely a strange book. Part historical fiction, part literary fiction, with a touch of creepiness mixed in as well. I'm not sure it's entirely successful though, but I wouldn't say it was entirely bad either.

First and foremost, the writing was a mixed bag. At times, I really liked the way the author described things and set the scene for the reader. But often, that feeling would be ruined by long, boring, and overly detailed stretches of scene descriptions or inner dialogues. And I'd often s
I think you call this "densely atmospheric" and hauntingly visceral? Weird, corporeal, gothic, kind of nasty. Maile Chapman never uses a another kind of metaphor when a gross bodily metaphor will do. She has a Margaret Atwood-like approach - I can imagine an Alias Grace-sort of novel from Chapman in a few years. I think she wanted to take the reader deep inside a place and into the minds and aching bodies of some disturbed women, and though I don't think she quite pulled the novel as entirety to ...more
Odd book! The prose is quite unusual and successful for the most part but sometimes gets a little tedious. I finished it feeling slightly confused - there seems to be an incremental build up to the final events, then they happen and are more or less glossed over, then returned to but you're not sure what's true and what isn't. The narrator appears to be a patient at the hospital or at least it's the voice of someone who was maybe there once but it gives an off-kilter edge to the whole thing whic ...more
Sara Habein
How could I resist a title like Your Presence is Requested at Suvanto? I’m a sucker for a good, long title, and with a cover blurb comparing the Maile Chapman to Patricia Highsmith, I knew I had to read it. Trouble is, I over-hyped myself based on the title alone. Perhaps having already been desensitized to Highsmith-esque macabre, the book felt understated by comparison. But though the degree of my appreciation may have faltered, I did enjoy immersing myself in the unfamiliar environment.

It’s a
Jun 15, 2010 Daisy rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Daisy by: Amy Henry
3 and 3/4 stars.

Let's see how this sits with me now that I've finished it. I need to mull it over a bit. For now I take away images of ginger cookies and snow, clean sheets and saunas, ice and gravestones.

Everything's got a mist over it; it's a blurry story. I liked spending time with it though, even though I didn't like so many of the characters. It's kind of beautiful.

It's a mysterious (and misty) story that's not really a mystery. It seems as though nothing happens until the end of the book.
I wanted this book to be more engrossing, more of a real potboiler, than it was. It was very good, and maybe it's just the subject matter that is always going to keep the reader at a distance, just like Sunny Taylor watches her patients from a distance instead of engaging with them on a personal level. It reminded me a bit of something like Black Narcissus by Rumer Godden, in which a group of Irish nuns travel to a monastery in the Himalayas to start a school, and the remoteness of the location ...more

Nominated for The Guardian's First Novel Award 2010, the story is set in the 1920s in a remote part of Finland. We are introduced to the elderly residents of a rather exclusive ward in a women's convalescent hospital. However, these patients are not so much physically sick as sick of life, their aptly named Up-Ward is designated for upwardly mobile foreign ladies who can afford to spend most of the day lying in bed, having their meals served, having mostly unnecessary treatments for minor illnes
Nicola Hearn
I have a history with this book. The title caught my eye when I was trialling through long lists of data at work. It sounded interesting so I bought it, started reading it then accidentally left it in a pub toilet. I wonder if anyone found it and read it... By this time I knew I would like it but I couldn't remember the title. I thought about it a few times over the next few weeks but it turns out you can find anything on the Internet. I think I just searched 'Sunny', 'Finland', 'Hospital'. Afte ...more
Kasa Cotugno
*** 1/2 I approached this book with much anticipation, and for much of it, was gratified. The mood and setting are remarkably delineated. Set in a remote "hospital" for women in a bleak 1920's Finland, Chapman fills the pages with sensuous detail clearly bringing to life the humid, hothouse atmosphere. It is unclear why many of these women continue to take up bedspace in what purports to be a hospital, which includes a floor more like a private club for women who are bored, hysterical, or just p ...more
Linda Michel-Cassidy
I really wanted to love this book, but I have to say it really fell short of my expectations. It had all of the ingredients of what I am attracted to: the language, setting, potentially complex characters...
All of the medical information as well as Julia's backstory seemed to be going somewhere, but by the end it turned out to be largely irrelevant. I loved the setting as well as the mystery regarding what all of the characters were doing there.I would say that the nordic setting as well as the
Didn't really find an affinity with any of the characters, and found it difficult to get on the same page as the author. Felt like I was lost at sea without any bearings, as it was not clearly defined on a time scale. However I think this was a device used by the author, but it was unsettling. I appreciated the writing but found the whole novel almost misogynistic with its emphasis on women's problems/issues. The whole juxtaposition of the old withered bodies that had lost their reason for being ...more
Haunting, eerie, Gothic, female nurse book. I am giving it 4* mostly because there are so few books in English set in my home country. This one did a good job describing how the climate, culture and isolation influences the psyche. Very good book about how it feels like to be foreign in a strange place.

Note for the publishers if this makes into a second printing... Page 138 rjily is really spelled ryijy.

I usually dislike it when books use/leave original language sentences in the story, but in t
Anne Wehrly
Just proof that all books that have cool covers and something about Finland (even some words of Finnish) are not in fact enjoyable reads. The writer's style improves by the end, but the strange narration and general mood of alienation and self-induced malaise was a drag throughout. Nor did I find that the added "spice" of gynecological and obstetric details gave this thin broth a good flavor. Hmm, maybe her next book will be about Finland but leave out the dismal women and gyno stuff?
I think I completely missed the point of this book.
I added this to my wishlist after reading "I Never Promised You a Rose Garden" (1964) which is a semi-autobiographical novel by Joanne Greenberg.

Suvanto didn't even nearly compare.

I'm not sure if this has been translated poorly, or whether it is supposed to come across to the reader as "clunky" but it just didn't do it for me.

I ould imagine the piney wood and the coldness, but the storyline was just a bit flat.
Inspired by the possibility of maenadic madness, in Your Presence is Required at Suvanto Maile Chapman explores with a medical thoroughness the weird pleasures of rich and perhaps selfish women suffering from vague and misunderstood illnesses in a clinic in a remote forest in Finland in the 1920's. The pace is glacial and the details are repulsive, but from the sylvan stillness emerges a believable chaos. Not for the faint of heart or those with short attention spans.
Kay Robart
Your Presence Is Requested at Suvanto by Maile Chapman is an unusual and disturbing novel about the events at a hospital in Finland at the turn of the century. The novel is an attempt at a sort of Victorial Gothic. It is certainly atmospheric, but some readers may find it rather slow-going, as it takes awhile for anything definite to happen.

See my complete review here:
While the writing was great and the use of the changing seasons in creating the increasingly secluded and bleak atmosphere was very skillful, I really could have done without all the mistakes in Finnish. As far as I remember some of mistakes were there on purpose, but even the Finnish spoken by the Finnish speakers was incorrect and sadly this kind of lack of attention to detail did take away from my enjoyment of the book.
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Maile Chapman's stories have appeared in A Public Space, Literary Review, the Mississippi Review, and Post Road. She earned her MFA from Syracuse University and is currently a Schaeffer Fellow in Fiction at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas."
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