book review · dual timeline · historical fiction

Book Review – Coffee & Vodka (No Woman is an Island)

No Woman is an Island (Pandora’s Boxed Set #1) includes books by Liza PerratLinda GillardLorna FergussonClare Flynn and Helena Halme 

I’ve made it to book #5, Coffee & Vodka by Helena Halme and have to admit to thoroughly enjoying this last book in the collection. What a great collection it has been.

Book Description

‘Coffee and Vodka is a rich story that stays with us….with moments of brilliance.’ – Dr. Mimi Thebo, Bath Spa University.

Eeva doesn’t want to remember, but a return to Finland where she grew up forces her finally to confront her past.

‘In Stockholm, everything is bigger and better.’

When her father announces the family is to leave Finland for a new life in Sweden, 11-year-old Eeva is elated. But in Stockholm her mother finds feminism, Eeva’s sister, Anja, pretends to be Swedish and her father struggles to adapt.

One night, Eeva’s world falls apart.

Fast forward 30 years. Now teaching Swedish to foreigners, Eeva travels back to Finland when her beloved grandmother becomes ill. On the overnight ferry, a chance meeting with her married ex-lover, Yri, prompts family secrets to unravel and buried memories to come flooding back.

It’s time for Eeva to find out what really happened all those years ago …

Coffee and Vodka has it all: family drama, mystery, romance and sisterly love.

If you like Nordic Noir, you’ll love this rich Nordic family drama by the Finnish author Helena Halme.


‘The descriptions of the difficulties of childhood, sisterhood, relationships, and parenthood transcend national borders.’ – Pauline Masurel, editor & writer.


‘Like the television series The Bridge, Coffee and Vodka opens our eyes to facets of a Scandinavian culture that most of us would lump together into one. I loved the way the narrative wove together the viewpoint of Eeva the child and her shock at arriving in a new country, with Eeva the sophisticated adult, returning for the first time to the country of her birth, and finding it both familiar and irretrievably strange.’ Catriona Troth, Triskele Books.


‘I loved reading this. After picking it up (or opening it on my Kindle I should say) it was hard to put it down; I even missed my stop on the bus to carry on reading.’ Goodreads reader.

Amazon UK Purchase link

My Review

I write this review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team. As the last book in the collection of No Woman is an Island, it proved to be another thought-provoking and observant tale of family life set over two timelines but with the same characters.

Set in Finland and Sweden, Coffee and Vodka spans thirty years of the life of Eeva and her family. As time goes on, both characters and plot develop in line with each other making it impossible to stop reading until you know exactly what happened to them.

The story is an easy read, well-written and crafted at just the right pace to draw you into Eeva’s life and hold your attention as she moves from child- to adulthood, from Finland to Sweden, from observing to understanding. It has a coming-of-age feel to it mingled with history and “a slice of life” family drama. It doesn’t pull overly dramatic punches but rather deals with themes that readers can relate to in a way that compels you to keep going to unravel the threads that weave through this tapestry of family life. There are issues of domestic abuse, alcoholism, teenage angst all of which are beautifully offset the existence of a wonderfully uniting matriarch whose passing delivers the “aha!” moment that holds everything together and promises a better future.

Subtle and compelling, it makes for a fitting final book to a strong collection of impressive women throughout history. I look forward to reading more by this author who has mastered the art of telling a simple story so very, very well.

If you’re interested in any of the books in this collection, please take a look for yourself … and, enjoy!

Pandora’s Boxed Set #1

Together for the first time: award-winners and trail-blazers. 5 international women authors showcase 5 unforgettable novels.

Blood Rose Angel, by Liza Perrat
1348, France. A bone-sculpted angel and the woman who wears it—heretic, Devil’s servant, saint.
Despite her bastardy, Héloïse has earned respect in the French village of Lucie-sur-Vionne for her midwifery and healing skills. Then the Black Death sweeps into France.

Hidden, by Linda Gillard
A birth. A death. Hidden for a hundred years.
1917.“Lady, fiancé killed, will gladly marry officer totally blinded or otherwise incapacitated by the war.” When Miranda Norton inherits Myddleton Mote and its art collection she is haunted by the dark secrets of a woman imprisoned in a reckless marriage.

The Chase, by Lorna Fergusson
The past will hunt you down.
Gerald Feldwick tells his wife Netty that in France they can put the past behind them. Alone in an old house, deep in the woods of the Dordogne, Netty is not so sure. Netty is right.

The Chalky Sea, by Clare Flynn
July 1940. When bombs fall, the world changes for two troubled people.
Gwen knows her husband might die in the field but thought her sleepy English seaside town was safe. Amid horror and loss, she meets Jim Armstrong, a soldier far from the cosy life of his Ontario farm. Can war also bring salvation?

Coffee and Vodka, by Helena Halme
Eeva doesn’t want to remember, but in Finland she must face her past.
‘In Stockholm, everything is bigger and better.’ Her Pappa’s hopes for a better life in another country adjust to the harsh reality but one night, Eeva’s world falls apart. Thirty years later, Eeva needs to know what happened.

As always,

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