Your Presence is Requested at Suvanto by Maile Chapman

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Your Presence is Requested at Suvanto by Maile Chapman

Category: Literary Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Louise Laurie
Reviewed by Louise Laurie
Summary: The location is a convalescent hospital deep in rural Finland. Nurses and patients live cheek-by-jowl and one patient in particular gets under the skin of efficient nurse Sunny Taylor, with tragic consequences.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 272 Date: August 2011
Publisher: Vintage
ISBN: 978-0099548676

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American nurse Sunny Taylor needed to get away from home and everything familiar. She takes a gamble into the unknown and ends up in Finland. The language barrier seems to be the least of her problems. As a healthy, relatively young female she sees on a daily basis ailments, minor and major, imagined and otherwise. Suvanto (which gives the novel its title) is the name of the well-known and well-regarded hospital. It operates on a tier system - those who can pay well for medical care and those who are less well-off. And the accommodation, level of nursing and medical care and even the food also operate on this tiered system.

Sunny is a good nurse and the live-in accommodation is just what she needs, even if she's on call round the clock. She finds the work fairly satisfying most of the time but it can be repetitious and the constant requests from her female patients are often draining. One day there's a new arrival: elderly ex-ballroom dancer Julia. And Julia brings with her a certain amount of glamour, even if it's now of the faded variety. Initially, she takes time to settle in. Even although she's housed on the upper floors where everything's the quality of a five star hotel, there's still the regular taking of medication, assisted bathing etc. As Julia is quite frail and her bones as brittle as a bird's she needs Sunny's assistance. But does she welcome it?

And no, it's not always Sunny by name, sunny by nature. But she does her level best. Certain minor incidents occur involving the new patient Julia and show her up to be sometimes bad-mouthed and bad-tempered. This tests Sunny to the limit. Who's the patient and who's the nurse here? Chapman gives us the low-down on all of this and much more in a lovely, lilting, poetic style. Here's just one short example, A deep flush pools in the hollows of Julia's cheeks, and her tongue seems to throb in her half-opened mouth.

As you might expect of a hospital-based book, there's a fair number of medical procedures dotted about. But in Chapman's hands it's fairly gripping stuff. But it can also be shocking too. Sad moments aplenty as those patients well enough and sane enough, think back to happier times in their lives. But others seem to wallow in being 'ill' - all that attention can go to a woman's head.

As the story deepens, so too does the nurse/patient relationship between the brisk Sunny and the moody Julia until one day it all comes to a climax ... There's the odd male doctor, but it's really about the female psyche. Marriages, children, divorces etc are all mulled over here against the backdrop of trees, rest and recuperation. The setting is certainly atmospheric and the narrative is haunting throughout which all makes for a very enjoyable read indeed. Recommended.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.

If this book appeals then you might like to try The True Deceiver by Tove Jansson.

Buy Your Presence is Requested at Suvanto by Maile Chapman at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Your Presence is Requested at Suvanto by Maile Chapman at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Your Presence is Requested at Suvanto by Maile Chapman at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Your Presence is Requested at Suvanto by Maile Chapman at Amazon.com.


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