“The smell of blood. The sound of crunching bones. I do not want to bring it all up again. But I have to. It is difficult to write about death. But that is no excuse not to.” – Maria Turtschaninoff, Maresi

Maresi by Maria Turtschaninoff is the first book in Red Abbey Chronicles. It was first published in 2014, English translation was published in the beginning of this year by Pushkin Press. I was curious to read Maresi because I have seen many positive reviews of it and also because it won Finlandia Junior Prize. Maresi tells us about a world where girls aren’t allowed to learn or do as they please. However, there’s a safe haven, a place called Red Abbey on an island inhabited solely by women.

I shook my head. “Never. Men are not allowed on the island. The fishermen we trade with do not set foot on the island, Sister Veerk buys the catch from the pier. We have male animals of course. One quite savage rooster, some billy goats. But no men.”  – Maria Turtschaninoff, Maresi

Novel is narrated by its main character, young girl named Maresi who came to the Red Abbey several years ago during the Hunger Winter. Then one day everything changes when a new girl, Jai, arrives to island. Jai is silent and guarded… and on the run from her violent father.

Jai looked at me with a grave expression. “Do you think the birds would still wake us? If somebody came?”  – Maria Turtschaninoff, Maresi

Maresi sucks you in and doesn’t let go. It’s distinctly feminist, yet it doesn’t manifest it. Men are not the enemies, but they can be. Novel also delivers many other vital messages, for example that there is always hope and how “knowledge is power”. And who doesn’t like books where main characters are fellow read-a-holics?

I enjoyed the symbolism in Maresi. Red ~ color of blood but also sacrifice, danger and courage. Hair ~ long hair: power, flowing hair: freedom. Moon ~ well… is there more feminine symbol than that. I read English translation of this novel (Maresi was originally published in Swedish) and it was wonderful, translator has done a fantastic job. You can feel the original language there though English translation is very “whole”. In general, I’m not the biggest fan of Finnish fiction, however with Maresi I was glad to make an exception. I didn’t feel like the book lacked anything and it was The Complete Package, I’m glad there will be more books to this series.

4/5 stars


(This is for all feminists out there.)
2.Great read for girls, women and anyone who wants to read refreshing and different kind of young adult fantasy.
3. Maresi is about 256 pages long, it reads quickly and easily and despite some symbolism I didn’t feel like it was difficult.
4. If you like Le Guin’s books, I think Maresi would be something you would enjoy.
5. There are apparently some small connections to other books written by Turtschaninoff, unfortunately ‘Arra’ and ‘Anaché’ have only been published in Finnish and Swedish.

“Do not be sad, Maresi. You have to let go of the old to begin something new. But that does not mean it is lost for ever.” – Maria Turtschaninoff, Maresi

4 thoughts on “Maresi

  1. ‘…a world where girls aren’t allowed to learn or do as they please.’ Perhaps not such a fantasy after all – sadly, there are places like that in THIS world.

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