I am a member of the Goodreads reading/writing site. We will often write reviews of each other’s Indie books, of which there are many excellent ones. I really enjoyed one in particular entitled Lost Ground by Ulla Jordan. My review of it follows.
I just completed a wonderful novel by Ulla Jordan entitled Lost Ground, a work of historical fiction. This book really worked for me on different levels. I have always been a huge fan of this genre having read extensively James Michener, James Clavell, and Gore Vidal among others. It is a drama/tragedy/love story/celebration of life with all its complexities set in Finland during the often overlooked 1939/1940 Russo/Finnish War.
Right off the bat the subject intrigued me because although I have a pretty fair knowledge of World War II, I really knew nothing about this particular war which is connected to the larger war. In that sense, it was a great education for me.
However it was the poignancy of the love story, really a love triangle that is interwoven with the calamitous and often horrendous events on the ground that drove this gripping drama. The story begins at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, scene of Jesse Owen’s triumphs and Adolf Hitler’s chagrin. Thomas Henderson, an American reporter is in town to cover the event and by chance runs into the Finns Dr. Eric Bjornstrom and his daughter Tina at a hotel. She is there rooting for her fiancé Paul (although he never officially proposed) who is entered in the men’s five thousand meter event.
Tom is a tall, charismatic, hard-bitten soul who covers his disappointments in life with a cultivated air of indifference and an enjoyment of good scotch. As he explains later in the novel “life is a game of catch-up. Trying to get back to where you were before your last mistake.” He reminded me a bit of Humphrey Bogart’s “Rick” in Casablanca. Tina is an understated pretty blue-eyed woman without any Hollywood pretension. She is shocked by a man’s use of the term “ass”, a term never spoken in her social circles. The attraction between them when he helps her pick up the contents of her spilled purse is immediate. Paul is a reluctant, passive, emotionally shut down man who is always aware of coming from a lower social position than Tina. Hence, he does not propose to her. When he takes a spill in the event and is eliminated, he feels his big chance in life is over. By coincidence, Tom was also a runner in his youth but an injury brought that phase of his life to an end.
Fast forward three years to Helsinki. Tom and his friend British journalist Philip Taylor are in town to cover the gathering storm in Finland as Stalin’s Russia threatens. Taylor calls his old friend Bjornstrom and he and Tom are invited over for dinner. Paul is also there and that very night, he gets his summons to report to the front. The story unfolds from there.
We learn that the three principal characters all have some hard luck in their backgrounds—early deaths of parents, an early jail experience, an unwanted pregnancy, and in the case of Tom and Paul, premature endings to their running careers. Tom, who feels anything other than sex with a woman brings on problems, begins to find his own heart as his relationship with Tina blossoms. However, Paul is at the front and he still loves Tina.
I won’t reveal how it all comes out but suffice to say that this reader’s emotions were completely engaged—such anticipation, joy, and sadness. The author’s phraseology is excellent with skillful use of metaphors, especially to describe the depth and ironies of life. The description of the war itself is very graphic and feels so real.
Finally, the story is concluded with a powerful and surprising ending. The author could have wrapped up the story in another more predictable way but I am so glad she chose the ending she did. I recommend this book to everyone!