Title: The Eye of the Reindeer
Author: Eva Weaver
Publisher: W&N/Hachette Australia
Price: $32.99/$16.99 for the eBook
Synopsis: Shortly after her sixteenth birthday, Ritva is sent away to Seili, an island to the south of Finland. A former leper colony, Seili is now home to ‘hopeless cases’ – to women the doctors call mad. But Ritva knows she doesn’t belong there. As biting winter follows biting winter, she longs to be near to her sister, and wonders why her father ever allowed her to be taken to this desolate place.
Hope arrives in the form of Martta, a headstrong girl who becomes Ritva’s only friend. Martta is a Sami, from the north. All through her childhood, Ritva’s mother told her wonderful Sami legends and tales – of Vaja the reindeer, the stolen sealskin, of a sacred drum hidden long ago. When Ritva and Martta decide to make their escape, this is where they will head.
So begins an odyssey over frozen sea and land towards a place where healing and forgiveness can grow. This is a story about friendship, about seeing the world through a different perspective, and the stories and tales that can make up a life.
Ritva’s journey of isolation and finding a way home, and to a place where she can be happy and find her place in the world begins when she is sent away to Seili in the far north of Finland. Once a leper’s colony, it is now a home to women whom the doctors deem mad, and whom they claim that cannot help anymore. Here, Ritva becomes isolated, knowing she doesn’t belong at Seili, but with no way out. Until she befriends Marta, a Sami woman, with whom she hatches a plan for escape from the nurses, Matron and Petta, the man who escorts the women over to Seili, and expects many things from them that they are not always willing to give.
As time passes, Martta and Ritva escape, and spend months and years trying to outrun Petta as he hunts for them, finally crossing over into Sweden and the Sami lands of Finland and Norway in search of a place of their own with the Sami people. As they journey on, they collect a young boy, a wolf and confront unknown feelings that surface, and question these feelings for each other. Weaver has dealt with these issues respectfully within the context of the setting of the novel and for the contemporary reader, illuminating the prejudices that women like Martta and Ritva faced, and the prejudices faced by the Sami, an indigenous group of northern Finland and Europe.
Throughout the novel, the stories of the Sami are referred to, through Martta and Ritva’s recollections of her mother, and the revelations that come out during Ritva and Martta’s escape from Seili and later on in the novel, resulting in a conclusion to the story that is shocking and at the same time, a relief because it allows the story to complete the themes it has explored and bring the people who Ritva has loved for so long back together.
The Eye of the Reindeer weaves the themes of love, family and betrayal together in many ways, through family, friends and the people that the characters choose to spend their lives with. It allows for a variety of themes and issues to be explored. It is a fascinating read, and allows voices of a silenced group to be heard.