Nuoren opettajattaren varaventtiili (The Young Teacher’s Safety Valve) by Hilja Valtonen was the first modern Finnish light novel, a trendsetter for its humour and cheekiness. She published close to thirty bestsellers between 1926 and 1975. Her heroines are career women, often self-taught, and marriage is described as an attractive option, if not the only one. A number of the novels are incisive analyses of inequality in marriage, portraying the modern man as “old-fashioned at heart”.The new wave of popular Finnish novels by women dauntlessly combined romantic intrigue with analyses of inner conflicts. The novels of Elsa Soini examine the status of the modern woman in inter-war society. She depicts several generations of women from turn-of-the-century suffragettes to modern tomboys with upper secondary or university degrees. Her works call the sharp dividing line between femininity and masculinity into question.
In the 1980s, the historical novel, a centuries-old favourite among female readers, underwent a process of serious revision. The female heroes were brought up to date. The heroines were adapted to the contemporary world, and together with the new romance literature, the new feminist historical novel captured the interest of women readers.New women writers throughout the Nordic region began to write about hidden, forgotten, overlooked, or entirely unknown women from past centuries, and the books were welcomed by huge audiences (and by reviewers) with such overwhelming interest that it began to look like just the genre for which they had all been searching for so many years.
The writing career of Sara Elisabeth Wacklin is a good example of how difficult it was for one of the narrative talents of the semi-public salons to become an author. Just before her death, the three volumes of her lifework, Hundrade minnen från Österbotten (A Hundred Memories from Ostrobothnia), were published. Since it contains examples of all the period’s prose styles, the work forms an interesting link in the history of both the Finnish and the Swedish novel.Even if the book may be regarded as belonging to the contemporary literary tradition of native realists, it can also be interpreted in terms of a searching and experimental effort. This plurality may be a result of Wacklin’s attempt to also offer an unaffected depiction of the Ostrobothnian woman and her conditions of life. The publication of Hundrade minnen från Österbotten became a lengthy affair. The Finnish publisher insisted on a subscription list to guarantee the sales. This never proved necessary, for the work became a considerable success.