Author: Maria Turtschaninoff
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Release date: February 1
Reviewed By: DEBORAH TAN
Maria Turtschaninoff introduces a feminist dystopia in Maresi, the Finlandia Junior Prize-winning debut of the Red Abbey series. In a world where all women cannot learn or study, where children struggle in poverty, the Red Abbey represents prevailing hope.
Our narrator, Maresi, lives at The Red Abbey, which is an ancient refuge of mythical origin. It is a place of friendship and light, where women can pursue their interests in safety. The newcomer, Jai, recently watched her sister be buried alive by her father. Her only ‘crime’ was talking to a young man. Jai is timid, and looks up to Maresi as a guardian. Maresi and the rest at the abbey defend their community from Jai’s violent father, while Maresi confronts her own poverty-stricken past.
Although the novel features a female-exclusive abbey, Turtschaninoff richly describes a beautiful yet brutal world without isolating other readers. Through Maresi’s eyes, she presents heavy themes that will leave you reflecting on their world and ours, long after the novel ends. Turtschaninoff skilfully explores unique voices, evoking Room by Emma Donoghue, and the dark themes of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. Maresi is a good introduction to books with feminist themes, advocating a world of equality and peace from violence for all people.
Both magical and sad, inspiring and frightening, Maresi is a fairytale for the modern world.