Leena Parkkinen's photo.

© Jonne Räsänen/ Otava

Leena Parkkinen: Miss Stein’s Cook

The principal character in this novel has a little-known real-world counterpart, but this is the first time that she’s been given an entire fictitious story of her own.

In the early 1900s a crime is committed in Parainen in the Archipelago Sea in Finland. The tragedy separates two close sisters who have spent their lives together working as servants.Two decades later one of the siblings becomes a cookery maid in the Parisian household of none other than renowned avant garde authors Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas.

Both the Finnish protagonist Margit and the historical Alice are defined by their roles as serving women — Toklas worked as Gertrude’s editor, muse, and typist in addition to being her lover.

A special trust is born between the two servants from two different cultures.

Leena Parkkinen is the recipient of multiple literary honors, and has written a sensual narrative that vitalizes 1930s Paris and shines a light on culture-defining women at the height of their youthful powers. Masterful cuisine also plays a part in this story of the kind of love that makes people dote on one another unrelentingly — for better or worse.

Original title: Neiti Steinin keittäjätär. Otava 2022, 464 pp.
Foreign rights: Elina Ahlbäck Literary Agency, ahlbackagency.com