Do love a good pick-your-own-adventure book. This one was for adults, though, as the subject matter is the Finnish civil war.
My 1st character I played as me. Made the decisions I feel like I would have made.
Elli from Häme. Started off as a pauper's child (no father). - every character starts like this; you choose name, sex (sadly only binary available), and place of birth before starting the story.
I was auctioned off to a household - as was custom if a child, an invalid, or an old person had no way of making a living on their own. The parish pays the family a sum to take me in. You could either end up as the lowliest worker in a farmhouse, a noble woman’s servant or whatever, depending on your luck.
I was told to sing, as the vicar knew I could, but the song I sang marked me as a communist, so I ended up with a sharecropper. A nice, religious, man who lived alone with his farmhand.
Soon I saw that their relationship was more than that of a master and hand. They shared a bed, I slept above the hearth. The gentle looks were obvious even to a child like me. (Yes, this really happened)
After my mother’s funeral, my sharecropper’s landlord came to demand more rent, but I managed to raise his own farmhands against him – drunk as they were, and we got more time. I knew that he had the money to pay for the extra rent, but that money was going to charity, to help his sister and her children.
Finland was declared independent. I was invited to join the Red Guard. There is a short-lived dream of simple freedom, but it becomes soon clear that the country is divided; there are strikes all over the country, small skirmishes, people have already died.
I am arrested while my division is negotiating with the white guard about the usage of the railway station that they have commandeered. This is because I’m a known agitator, and I am sent to the acting judge, and sent to the culling. We are arranged into a line across the field; every sixth person is shot. I get lucky – if you want to call it that – and the person next to me gets shot. My sharecropper is one of the shot people. I am sent to the concentration camp.
There the guards humiliate us, the women especially. One day I am called to the guard house, where the guards tell me to act like a woman, and then they rape me to make me act like a woman. I struggle and get injured. I end up in the sick house. An unhygienic place, full of vermin, not enough medicine, food or clean dressings. I survive my injuries, but then the famines start. People start dying from the simple lack of food. The sick house gets even fuller. I’m not even hungry anymore, but the nurse forces sustenance in me, and I scrape by.
There us still not enough food. But we’re surviving. People are being freed now, children first, then those who hadn’t participated in the fighting, but I hold out no hope. In the summer a sauna is finally built, and we get to clean ourselves for the first time in ages. Once the smell of grime fades, we can smell the summer flowers again.
It is finally my turn at court. And as I suspected, I am given the death penalty and sent back to the camp. But now news start to trickle through the fences, Germany seems to be losing the war; the guards – both the white Finns and the Germans – get edgy. They are rotated out and we get new guards, ones that are not so cruel to us. My sentence is repealed, and I am freed before Christmas.
I have to say this was fascinating. I also got really, really lucky with my dice rolls. Not getting pregnant, or getting an STD; not getting sick or shot.