House of Orphans

by Helen Dunmore

I loved this story of an orphaned girl achieving political and personal understanding against the background of turmoil in early 20th century Finland. I knew very little about Finnish history before reading this book but it made me want to find out more. It’s an engrossing read, one which sucks you in and isn’t about to let you go.


I’m afraid of having my life again, that’s it. I was never afraid before, not when I was little. I used to look forward and talk about when I grew up. It seemed natural that my life was my own. But in the House of Orphans they made us afraid.
They made us obedient on the outside, no matter what we felt like inside. We thought we were real rebels is we whispered in bed, me and Kirsti. Anna-Liisa was smarter than we thought. Yes, she knew how to get us ready for a lifetime of doing what we were told, and muttering under our breath where no one could hear us. We’d spit into her coffee to make ourselves feel big, or wipe her china she was so proud of with a cloth we’d used to clean the toilet. Dad was right. That’s how it works and most people never realise it.


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