I am surprised that I have never heard of this book by the Nobel Prize winner in Literature of 1939. It was a difficult book to read at the start because it is obviously a translation from Finnish. It took me a while to get accustomed to the rythm and style of the writing translated into English, and then I found myself really enjoying the story. The Maid Silja is a rather depressing story of the downfall of the Salmelus family who suffer one tragedy after another until, in the end, Silja dies alone in poverty. The story is beautifully written.
Sillanpaa offers this at the end as a message of the tragic story: "So ends the tale of the last flourishing of an old family tree that happened to end at that time; they are always ending. But these 'trees' are not like the trees of the forest. There is no real death for a family; if we could look unhindered through time, we should see 'branches' of every of every family still alive...In the widest sense of all we are al members of the same family and can therefore respect each other's struggles in all time. You too, the farthest reader in point of time of this narrative, may respect our battles. This natural stress of battle is only a sign, the meaning and significance of which we are permitted, indeed constantly compelled, to study."