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Burn My Letters: Tyranny to Refuge

4.63  ·  Rating details ·  19 ratings  ·  15 reviews
At the end of the 19th century Finland is a dark and repressive place. Pacifist and political dissenter Karl Johan Back is conscripted to fight for the Russian despots that occupy his country. In 1899 he flees to an untamed land on the far side of the world. Finding refuge on ridges overlooking the Byron Bay lighthouse in northern New South Wales, he grows orchids and lush ...more
Paperback, 240 pages
Published July 21st 2016 by Words and Musica Bonetti
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Thrilled to get a copy of Ruth Bonetti's Burn My Letters: From tyranny to refuge.

In this memoir/biography, Ruth traces her great-uncle Karl Johan Back story - born into a family peppered with both tragedy and faith, growing up on the Swedish-speaking west coast of Finland as the family wrest a living from the land under the midnight sun and northern lights, rebelling against both his father's harshness and the ever encroaching rule of the Russians, a pen-fighter, KJ eventually flees to the east
Ruth Bonetti
Aug 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  (Review from the author)
Goodreads allows authors to review their own books.
Suffice to say, I'm delighted with the outcome of almost a decade's drafts, research, edits, redrafts, proofs and more proofs to put between covers a story that has fascinated me for half my life.
David Bennett
Sep 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Ruth Bonetti is an accomplished Australian writer, musician and speaker of Finnish descent. "Burn My Letters" is the first of two books Bonetti has written about her ancestors and it is a fascinating read.
This volume concentrates mainly on Karl Johan Back (KJ), her great uncle. KJ grew up in Finland at the end of the nineteenth century, when it was controlled by Russia. To escape conscription into the Russian Army KJ secretly migrated to Australia, his promised land. The phrase "burn my letters"
Lisa Nitschke
Sep 08, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Just finished reading "Burn My Letters" and really enjoyed it! Being a teacher, I usually never read much during term time, but I got involved in the story and found it was a welcome break in the evenings to see how the story unfolded. Having recently visited Byron Bay and surrounding hinterland, I could picture KJ making his home there. Looking forward to the next book! ...more
Adele Jones
Sep 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I eagerly received my copy of this long anticipated publication, expecting to fly through from front cover to back. Instead, I found myself pausing, absorbing the lyrical qualities of this work as it drew me into the author's years-long wrestle to unravel the mysteries of her family's past. These historical identities came alive for me, staring back from the pages, conferring their fears and despair, dreams and determination.

K.J. is a likeable dreamer, introspective, yet passionate about his fam
Mary Hawkins
Feb 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
An excellent, challenging book. For anyone not only interested in European history but Australian stories of refugees who arrived here years ago, this is a must read.
Annika Wiklund-engblom
May 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This lovely book touches my heart deeply. It is a history of lives disrupted by famine and wars at the beginning of the twentieth century. Ruth Bonetti tells about her relatives, emigrants from my own home village in Finland. She bridges both time and continents with the puzzle she has pieced together from family records, letters, old newspaper clippings and her own travels across the world.

My grandmother was the daughter of so called “living man’s widow”. She told me stories about those who ch
Jeanette Grant-Thomson
Apr 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
Four and a half stars.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book in which the author inquires into the life of her great-uncle, Karl Johan Back.
KJ, as he is called, journeys from Finland to make a hopefully safe life in the beautiful hinterland of Byron Bay. Ruth Bonetti brings this lush forested area to life with well-crafted descriptive prose, as she did earlier with the Finnish settings.

The book is written partly from the author's point of view, partly from KJ's, and also has enjoyable sections of dial
This is a biography of sorts of Karl Johan Back who immigrated to Australia from Finland in the early years of the 20th century. He left the country of his birth as a result of being conscripted into the Russian army. KJ (as he was known) hated the Russians and there was no way he’d fight for them.

The first half of the book tells of his early years in Finland, the difficult relationship with his father and the loss of a number of siblings. Further, he is bookish, one of his father’s issues, and
Mazzy Adams
Nov 21, 2016 rated it really liked it
'Burn My Letters' is a charming blend of well-researched narrative non-fiction and creative imagination. Ruth Bonetti has injected her heroic, real-life Great Uncle KJ Back with animated humanity and passionate expression as she traces his late 19th Century flight from an oppressed Finland to the raw and challenging environs of East-coast Australia. Along the way, she has enriched the story with her Uncle's and her own literary gems.

Ruth's writing is cohesive and easy to read. It capably suppor
Apr 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
I couldn't tear myself away when I started. Very little has been written about these past pioneers from the top of the world who left their countries to brave this new land. I travelled with them through the pages and felt their angst and joy. I recommend this as an interesting, informative and entertaining read. ...more
Anne Hamilton
Oct 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This family history blends creative non-fiction with a dab of magic realism to bring to life an absorbing story of great-uncle Karl Johan Back, Australia's first Finnish author. Backfilling snippets of family lore with fine research, a picture emerges of a hard-working, sensitive man struggling to make his way in a world which valued the business acumen of his younger brother far more than his own 'pen-fighting' on behalf of others.

Beautifully told with occasional photographs and diagrams, this
Juliet Hoey
Oct 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
"Burn My letters " and "Midnight Sun to Southern Cross" are two companion books by Brisbane author Ruth Bonetti. They document the history of Ruth's family, of " those who go" to Australia and " those who stay " in their native Finland. Using techniques of both carefully researched non-fiction and creative fiction, the author brings to life the fortunes and the misfortunes of her Finnish ancestors, while skilfully interspersing this fascinating history with her own visits to Scandinavia.

Of part
Annette Whybird
Hi Ruth and Antoni,

It was such a pleasure meeting you both on board ship at Easter.

Thank you, Ruth, for giving me your card so I could procure your two books, Burn My Letters and Midnight Sun to Southern Cross. I read them with interest and fascination. Both Graham and I are familiar with many of the places in Australia mentioned in your books, and Graham remembers the house at 209 Hawken Drive St Lucia from when he was at Kings College in 1964-5, studying for the Ministry.

I particularly enjoye
Charis Jackson
May 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
I had the privilege of listening to Ruth at her latest book launch for her second book in this series. Her passion was contagious and I found myself swept up in the story. I loved how she played with the mystery surrounding KJ's life. ...more
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