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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Not Before Sundown

Johanna Sinisalo

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To purchase Troll

Title: Not Before Sundown
Author: Johanna Sinisalo
Genre: Novel
Written: 2000 (Eng. 2003)
Length: 278 pages
Original in: Finnish
Availability: Troll - US
Not Before Sundown - UK
Troll - Canada
Troll - India
Jamais avant le coucher du soleil - France
Troll - Deutschland
Angel y el troll - España
  • Original Finnish title: Ennen päivänlaskua ei voi
  • UK title: Not Before Sundown
  • US title: Troll
  • US subtitle: A Love Story
  • Translated by Herbert Lomas
  • Awarded the Finlandia Prize

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Our Assessment:

B+ : fun, and interesting composition

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Boston Globe . 26/5/2004 Kevin O'Kelly
The Guardian . 5/7/2003 David Jays
Independent on Sunday . 8/6/2003 Murrough O'Brien
Neue Zürcher Zeitung . 26/11/2005 Marion Löhndorf
USA Today . 3/5/2004 Ellen Emery Heltzel
The Village Voice . 3/5/2004 Izzy Grinspan
The Washington Post . 18/5/2004 Chris Lehmann

  Review Consensus:

  Generally very impressed -- certainly by the parts, if not always the whole

  From the Reviews:
  • "I should temper my praise by acknowledging that aspects of the ending seem forced, but most novels fall flat at the end, usually without providing the hours of pleasure to be found in Troll: A Love Story. Johanna Sinisalo creates scenes that make you laugh out loud; 10 pages later you're holding your breath with anxiety. Such talent is not to be taken for granted. It's a book I picked up with anticipation and put down with gratitude." - Kevin O'Kelly, Boston Globe

  • "Sinisalo's strange and erotic tale peers at a crooked world through a peephole, as Angel discovers the consequences of breaking off a shard of the midnight forest and squirrelling it away." - David Jays, The Guardian

  • "But for all its virtues -- elegance, authenticity, and chilling conviction -- this novel remains ultimately unsatisfying. The fault lies in the very nature of the science fiction genre. Written by people who want answers, it tends to provide them, leaving the reader with no cud to chew, no code to crack." - Murrough O'Brien, Independent on Sunday

  • "Sinisalo verquickt in ihrem Troll-Buch Sagen, Mythen und Comic-Elemente. Verspielt hantiert sie mit Ideen vom Tier im Menschen und von der Rückkehr zur Natur, die auch nicht mehr ist, was sie einmal war" - Marion Löhndorf, Neue Zürcher Zeitung

  • "Troll: A Love Story might best be described as a punk version of The Hobbit. (...) This smart, droll novel points out the absurdity of consumerism" - Ellen Emery Heltzel, USA Today

  • "Sinisalo sets up thematic connections between nearly every event in the book, but she handles them with a light touch. (...) Everyone in Troll is hiding something, even the characters who are hidden themselves . Troll would be Ibsen's The Wild Duck -- if the duck were the main love interest." - Izzy Grinspan, The Village Voice

  • "All these overlapping narrative voices nicely underscore the moral of Sinisalo's ingeniously constructed fable: The stuff of ancient legend shadows with rather unnerving precision the course of unloosed postmodern desire." - Chris Lehmann, The Washington Post

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Not Before Sundown (or Troll, as it's titled in the US) is set in contemporary Finland -- but this is a world in which trolls (Felipithecus trollius) are a species that really does exist. Even so, they are semi-mythical creatures: sightings are very rare, descriptions of and stories about them often seem like tall tales, and no one knows much about them.
       Photographer Mikael Kalervo Hartikainen, called Angel, stumbles across a young one and takes it home with him, and the novel focusses primarily on their relationship. First he merely wants to save it, then release it, but ultimately he finds the hold of the animal (with features not too different from the human) too great. Secrecy also complicates matters: he knows he can't let anyone know what he's hiding in his apartment. And he also doesn't really know how to care for the animal, which normally hibernates in the winter and likes to hunt for its food.
       The novel is presented in very short chapters, many less than a page long. These alternate between Angel's first-person accounts and those of several other characters -- a neighbour, friends, lovers -- as well as newspaper and book excerpts generally dealing with trolls. The story of Angel and his troll (whom he names Pessi) is recounted, while the whole mythology of trolls is also nicely built up over the course of the book.
       Angel is gay, and his relationships cause problems too, as he tries to balance getting what he needs to save and preserve Pessi with his own romantic feelings. Ex-lovers, those interested in him, and those he's interested in, make for an increasingly complicated tangle of people and events with far-reaching consequences. When Pessi grows protective -- disliking the scent of another man on Angel -- and then when Angel uses Pessi in a photo for a jeans-advert (which the troll doesn't like in the least), it's clear things have to come to a violent head at some point.
       A sub-plot concerns Angel's neighbour, a Filipino mail-order bride named Palomita who is married to an ogre of a man. Angel becomes a small window on the outside world for her, with her situation a distorted mirror of what is happening in the other apartment: she too is a kept pet.
       Sinisalo juggles all of this quite well. It's an affecting story, with enough surprises and twists to ultimately be anything but simple. There's a bit much here, all very loosely presented -- largely brief pictures, encounters, observations, and thoughts -- and some could be drawn out more, but the novel works very well as is.
       A good, always surprising, and often charming (but with a nice edge to it) novel.

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Troll: Reviews: Johanna Sinisalo: Other books by Johanna Sinisalo under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Finnish author Johanna Sinisalo was born in 1958.

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