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The Iron Age

3.87  ·  Rating details ·  191 ratings  ·  34 reviews
I went up to the teacher and held out my hand and told her my name. She took a step back and tilted her head and looked at me without offering her hand. I pulled my hand back and hid it behind my back. She smiled the way grown ups smile at someone else’s ugly baby and then she spoke. ‘That is a strange name, we are not called names like that in Sweden.’

Arja Kajermo’s debut
Paperback, 128 pages
Published May 4th 2017 by Tramp Press
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Average rating 3.87  · 
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 ·  191 ratings  ·  34 reviews

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Paul Fulcher
Re-read following its inclusion on the outstanding longlist for the 2017 Republic of Consciousness Prize for 'gorgeous prose and hardcore literary fiction' from small, independent presses.

Sweden, a country that has been at peace for well over a hundred years, where nobody knew anybody who had been in a war, where people looked prosperous and healthy, where people seemed at ease with themselves and the world. But we brought our war with us. The shrapnel that had gone into Father's legs in 1944 i
Jun 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book is precious.This is a story of a little girl who grows up in poverty in postwar Finland.She lives with two brothers who are already hardened smokers at ages six and seven,a father who is suffering from PTSD after returning from a lost war with a shrapnel in his leg, a mother who has been silenced by a bitter marriage to an uncompromising man and a grandmother who hates her only son .The second half chronicles the family's migration to Sweden ,a country which has never seen war in a hun ...more
Oct 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018-rofc, 2017

But we brought our war with us. The shrapnel that had gone into Father’s legs, in 1944 in the painful retreat when the war was lost, had somehow worked its way into his children. Each one of us carried a shard of that iron in our hearts. We would never be at peace.

The Iron Age is published by Tramp Press who brought us, amongst other books, Solar Bones which won the Goldsmiths Prize in 2016 and A Line Made by Walking which
Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer

Tramp Press is a small Irish publisher which aims “to find, nuture and publish exceptional literary talent and … is committed to finding only the best and most deserving books, by new and established writers”. Its greatest success has been Mike McCormack’s 2016 Goldsmith Prize winning Solar Bones(which was Booker longlisted on its subsequent publication by a UK publisher), and more recently Sara Baume’s A Line Made by Walking
Simon Fay
May 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
A war veteran who suffers from PTSD is at the heart of The Iron Age. His daughter loses her childhood as a result.

I’ve often thought that the world is such a terrible place because of all the millions of soldiers who bring their wars home with them. PTSD has only come to be recognised as a disorder in the past few decades. Even in a wealthy country a soldier will have a difficult time finding proper rehabilitation. The damage they experience can be violent, and it’s passed along to their closest
Margaret Madden
Jun 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: books-i-own
4.5 stars.
A young girl commences the story of her harsh childhood in 1950s Finland. Living in poverty, the girl and her family battle through extreme weather and with the bare essentials. No electricity, hand-me-down clothes and the sharp tongue and temper of their veteran father. Local folklore and legend add a new dimension to the children's lives and they hover halfway between fear and hope. The family are forced to leave their small holding, when they are disinherited. "Mother and the baby a
Eric Anderson
Apr 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
It’s compelling how debut novelist Arja Kajermo handles the challenge of writing about a child’s mostly bleak and bare external life in relation to her rich inner life. “The Iron Age” presents a coming of age tale about a girl growing up in post-war Finland, first on a rural farm without electricity or indoor plumbing and then in urban Sweden with its foreign language and more cosmopolitan ways. Since children have a natural tendency toward make-believe and dreaming its tricky to negotiate the r ...more
Barbara McEwen
Jan 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nordic-countries
Oh my God! Simple and painful and beautiful. Pick it up people!
It's about a young girl growing up in rural Finland following the war and her family's move to urban Sweden to make a living. (Think: Finland, poverty, family, marriage, PTSD, Sweden, culture shock, changing times) Ok, I know that may not sound riveting but I am not a writer.
I was completely drawn in. The writing is simple and straightforward but endearing and sort of magical? Not literally magical but the blurb does make references
Jackie Law
Nov 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
The Iron Age, by Arja Kajermo (illustrated by Susanna Kajermo Törner), is a story of a childhood. It begins in 1950s Finland when the narrator is four years old. She lives on a small farm with her war damaged father, stoic mother, angry grandmother and two older brothers. Neighbouring farms are owned by wider family, some more well off than others but all reliant on the land. Properties are connected by dirt tracks and a lake. The log cabins lack running water and electricity. The people raise, ...more
Mar 31, 2020 rated it really liked it
The Iron Age is what I call comfort reading as it is a coming of age story AND there’s illustrations, by Susanna Katermo Törner. Coincidentally part of the book also takes place in Stockholm, a city I visited 3 weeks ago. So all buttons duly pressed.

The narrator lives on a Finnish farm during the 1950’s. She’s got three siblings and we see rural life through her eyes. Her brothers’ antics,mythology, domestic violence, even the dialect is something she notices.

One day her father manages to get a
Karen Mace
Sep 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is a simple but stunningly powerful little book that came to my attention through being part of a recent MothBox subscription.

It tells the story through the eyes of a girl who is extremely observant and watches as her family struggle in Finland in the 1950's and they end up moving to Sweden in search of a better life for themselves. Her family life is extremely bleak and she is adept at noticing changes in moods and behaviour and tries to understand what makes her family behave the way they
May 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Set in the 1950s, The Iron Age follows the life of 'the Girl', the only daughter on a small farm in rural Finland. A beautiful mix of fairytales and coming-of-age style narration, it follows the protagonist on her journey from Finland to Sweden, with beautifully dark illustrations that accompany the story scattered throughout the novel.

I loved the style of writing in The Iron Age. Arja Kajermo gives you just enough detail to set the scene, but allows your own imagination to fill in the blanks as
Catherine  Pinkett
Sep 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I was not expecting this short story of a childhood in Finland to be so impactful. Narrated from a child's perspective, it offers a humerous yet important account of her childhood living with a father who is still traumatised from war time memories. Beautifully illustrated too. ...more
Liv J Hooper
Alanna |
Dec 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
This heartbreaking novella was so complete in a way I didn’t think 118 pages could be. The book begins with the brokenness and shallow materialism of a husband-wife relationship, then that wife to her son, then from that son to his wife. Ultimately, we reach a story of learned harsh fathering (heightened by WWII PTSD) seen through the eyes of a six year old narrator. A family that has never learned or been taught true love and gentleness. A family that is pressured by a status-seeking father to ...more
Emma Robertson
Oct 01, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2017
I was so excited getting to this book and it definitely was an easy book to read, based on a Finnish farming family drama which meant a disjointed but fresh start for the family in a new country.

The prose was well written and it had the tinge of dark humour to it. Although I do feel at times the story was lacking in both character development and direction for me.

I really wanted to know if the little girl ever spoke again, how her mother dealt with the fathers nature once she achieved some perso
Oct 12, 2017 rated it liked it
3.5. A lovely little book, that can be read in little over an hour, with some haunting illustrations by the author's niece. Clearly autobiographical, it also owes something to the works of both Undset and Moberg (other than just the Scandinavian settings). The prose is very simple, so it is somewhat surprising it was nominated for the Republic of Consciousness Prize, one of the mandates of which is 'exquisite prose'. So while I enjoyed it, it didn't really stand out as exceptional, and I can't r ...more
Bob Lopez
Jun 19, 2020 rated it liked it
A somewhat charming little tale, a first person narrative from the perspective of a young girl, growing up first in Finland then Sweden. Dad, mom four kids, our narrator is I believe 3rd—two older brothers, one younger baby brother. Life is hard, money hard to come by for dad on his mother’s farm. After a row, grandmother essentially kicks them off the farm. Hardships ensue until dad moves himself to Sweden to find work and the family follows after he is established. Pretty standard stuff.

May 04, 2020 rated it liked it
A nice, short book with beautiful pencilled drawings from the POV of a little girl living in the Finnish countryside before moving to Sweden in hopes of a better life. There is little joy for the character except for that found in reading and immersing oneself in another person's story which I didn't quite manage with this work. Still, I read with great interest about the Finnish experience in WW2, their relationship with Sweden, how difficult it was and still is to be a little girl who doesn't ...more
Aug 16, 2020 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Literate spitzes and capercaillies
Recommended to Kate by: FIC KAJE
It’s 1950. It’s agrarian Finland. It’s a time and a place where “there was no future, but there was tomorrow.” Father is obsessed with the war that still rages in his memory and resentful of the burden of four young children. Mother runs herself ragged to keep the wolves at bay and meet Grandmother’s expectations. Life does not improve when they immigrate to Sweden. The Girl namelessly narrates this haunting illustrated fable that reads like a bleak memoir. Does finely-spun darkness speak to you ...more
Nov 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
What a beautiful little gem of a book. I inhaled it; a economical yet poignant description of a young girl growing up in rural Finland and moving to Sweden, a meditation of a generation of men still lost to war long after returning, a bitter-sweet remembrance of a family falling apart, an exploration of the cruelty and kindness faced by the economic immigrant. My one complaint? It wasn’t long enough - I would have really liked to have more - especially about the Russo-Finnish war and the family’ ...more
Aug 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I didn't give it 5 stars just because although it had an ending it felt like the book finished before the story did. ...more
Elizabeth Hopkinson
Jan 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jill Schroeder
Jul 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: kindle
A sweet sad book. Sweet for it's child's eye view and acceptance. But a hard life where she became very quiet. Saved by escape into books, perhaps. ...more
Jun 06, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: owned
Didn't really connect with any of the characters but was impressed with the author's ability to powerfully convey condescension and escapism in rather concise language. ...more
Laura Jacobsen
Nov 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Really good, compelling read
Emmy B
Mar 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
The story is set in a post-war rural Finland, and later in Sweden, and the main character is a young girl living in great poverty with her family. Even though she has nothing and is not particularly well cared for, she is absolutely amazing. Her family leaves Finland in pursuit of a better life but chooses to leave one child behind and ends up never quite belonging to Sweden. I was gripped by this novel so easily but don't get me wrong, this is one of the saddest stories I've ever read. It is a ...more
Aug 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
A strange, beautiful little book with atmosphere to spare. Set in the isolation of rural post-war Finland and told from a child’s point of view, Iron Age feels like a bit of a fairy tale. But we’re talking old-time fairy tales, the bleak stuff. Our unnamed narrator and her family struggle with the physical and emotional tolls of ptsd, poverty and emmigration. This is a no-frills kind of narrative, but with plenty of references to Finnish folklore and superstition, not to mention the absolutely s ...more
Nov 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017-book-list
Mar 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
Beautiful illustrations and sweetly told. This novella stole my heart.
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