The Beautifully Curving Lips of Ella Milana and the Male Gaze: a brief explanation

The reader’s name was Ella Amanda Milana. She was twenty-six years old and the possessor of a pair of beautifully curving lips and a pair of defective ovaries, among other parts. ( – – )

She’d made a mental inventory.

First off, she had good lips. Her fingers were said to be delicate and beautiful. Her face couldn’t be called beautiful, as she had sometimes been reminded, but it was a pleasant face, sensitive, even appealing. She could see that for herself in the mirror. And a lover had once detected something artistic in the colour of her nipples – -.


Some of my readers have found this description of the protagonist of The Rabbit Back Literature Society, Ella Milana, to be somewhat disturbing. I have even heard that this piece of writing of mine is a good (= bad) example of the male gaze and sexism in books written by men.

It is true that in many parts of the novel, especially in the beginning, Ella Milana sees her own physical appearance through male gaze and in any case she really doesn’t feel good about herself. Apparently it’s quite possible to read these parts as clumsy writing and a sign of sexism of the male author but all this was originally meant to describe Ella Milana’s state of mind. So, it’s basically a question of focalization. In this case it belongs to Ella Milana, no to the author.

Let me explain: The working title of this very first novel of mine was The Disintegration (of Laura White). There are at least two women in the novel who are experiencing some degree of psychic disintegration: mysterious Laura White (who literally disintegrates and disappears into the whirl of snow at her parties) and this young teacher Ella Milana, who learns in the very beginning that she can never have a child and soon after that also loses her fiance. Her future as she imagined it changes drastically and before she is finally able to get herself together and becomes a true writer, her self-image takes some serious damage and goes to pieces. She doesn’t trust herself anymore and thus, for a while, she only is able to see herself through other people’s eyes, not as a whole person as she should see but as an incoherent collection of separate features evaluated by other people – in other words, she ends up objectifying herself.

So, the way I chose to describe this young woman, Ella Milana, isn’t so much a sign of my sexism as it is my sincere attempt to describe the mechanisms of a human psyche when a person loses her self-confidence and self-coherence as a result of a personal crisis (and maybe also partly because of the modern day consumer or patriarchal culture around her) and starts to see herself solely through other people’s eyes.

I think many of us writers have experienced something like this at some point of our lives. Being an outsider, a stranger in your own life – experiences like that can make you see everything, including yourself, differently; in a way through the eyes of an alien.

And that’s how writers are born.




The Day of a Wrong Cat: my new novel (only in Finnish, for now)

So, I am to publish my new, fourth novel Väärän kissan päivä (in English its title would be The Day of a Wrong Cat) very soon, in August 2017. It’s going to look like this:


It’s kind of a detective story of a man whose mother escapes from a nursing home during highly experimental treatment for her dementia. The novel takes place in a single day during which the protagonist must face several strange and frightening truths (or are they lies?) about his own and his mother’s life – and numerous creepy cats that seem to lurk everywhere in the city of Marrasvirta that is celebrating its annual Great Autumn Festival. He and his mother used to so close in his early childhood but then something happened and somehow soul mates became strangers that barely could talk to each other anymore. In spite of all the scary things and revealing secrets he must face, this is his very last and best opportunity to learn to know his mother once again…

Probably this fourth novel of mine will be translated sooner or later but meanwhile you, my dear English speaking readers, will have an opportunity to read my second novel Secret Passages in a Hillside Town (originally published in 2010 under the Finnish title Harjukaupungin salakäytävät). Pushkin Press is going to publish it in 7th of December 2017.