‘For us – children of a confined era, growing up in stuffy rooms crammed with dusty draperies, little china dogs, plaster ornaments and the first monstrous, wind-up gramophones – there was a strong and vivid impression that the new freedom would drag us all out into the streets, old and young, helter-skelter into the raucous crowds.’

Vega Maria has been trapped since birth in a vice of conflicting parental expectations. Her father brings her up to admire history’s heroic male adventurers, while her mother channels her towards housework and conformity. In a time of revolution and civil war in early twentieth-century Finland, Vega finds it hard to identify her own calling, alighting first on the cause of feminism but feeling her way towards a wider humanitarian mission. A kaleidoscope of changing roles for Vega whirls us through this compelling modernist novel, multi-layered, accessible and funny. Hagar Olsson’s evocation of Helsinki is second to none:

‘Spring came upon us early, in April, inundating us with its heat and intensity. My city awoke in that headlong way she does in spring, the white queen of the still-frozen waters, her crown glistening with sun and cobalt.’