Kaari Utrio

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Kaari Utrio
Kaari Utrio IMG 7404 C.jpg
Kaari Utrio in Turku Book Fair, 2011
Born(1942-07-28)28 July 1942
Helsinki, Finland

Kaari Marjatta Utrio (born 28 July 1942, official surname Utrio-Linnilä) is a Finnish writer. She has written over 35 historical novels and 13 non-fiction books on historical topics. She is a historian, holding the degree of Master of Arts from the University of Helsinki, and has returned from the position of Professor in service of the Finnish State Commission of Fine Arts.

Personal history[edit]

Kaari Utrio was born in Helsinki to a middle-class family. Her father was Urho Untamo Utrio, who after the Winter War worked as CEO of Tammi, a Finnish publishing company. Her mother Meri Marjatta Utrio (née Vitikainen) worked as an editor and a translator to Finnish. There were over four thousand books (100 meters) in Utrio's home, and literature was greatly valued in her family.[1]

Utrio became acquainted with literature at a young age, when her mother read her classics of world literature, such as Kipling and Shakespeare as bed-time stories. At the age of seven, the first book Utrio read by herself was a thick volume of Jokamiehen Maailmanhistoria (World History for the Everyman).[2] At school Utrio did well, also in composition writing, even though she did not have any plans to become a writer at the time. Instead she wanted to become a researcher of History.[3] Grimberg's Kansojen historia (History of Peoples) offered a lively description of history to the young Utrio.[1]

Kaari Utrio matriculated in 1962 from Helsingin tyttölukio, a girls-only college. After that, she studied history at the University of Helsinki and graduated as a Master of Arts in 1967, History of Finland and Scandinavia as her major subject and General history as minor.[4] The following year, Utrio published her first novel Kartanonherra ja kaunis Kirstin (The Lord of the Manor and the Beautiful Kirstin), which was published by Tammi. The title was given by the publisher, and Utrio did not like it herself.[1] The book was, however, a start for Utrio's numerous other historical novels, which have so far been published at a steady pace, usually one per year. Utrio has also published many non-fiction books about history.

Utrio has three children: Karri Virkajärvi (born 1969), Antti Virkajärvi (born 1971) and Lauri Linnilä (born 1976). In 1974 Utrio married Kai Linnilä. The next year, they moved to Somerniemi in Somero. At first, the couple tried their hand at self-sufficient agriculture, but gave it up after a couple of years. Instead, in 1982, Utrio and Linnilä founded a publishing company called Oy Amanita Ltd. Amanita became a family corporation, because Meri Utrio worked there, and later also Lauri Linnilä and his wife joined the staff.

Utrio has been active in several organisations. She has been the chairman of the Minna Canth Society from 1999. Utrio is a member of Amnesty International and has been on the board of the Finnish Association of Writers for several years.[4] She has also been active in municipal politics as a non-committed member of the Social Democratic group of the Somero municipal government from 1980 to 1988, and the chair of municipal library committee.[5] She has also given many lectures in many events all around Finland.

Utrio was appointed an artistic professor for the years 1995 to 2000, which was a recognition for her work. Utrio has been an academic in the Väinö Tanner Foundation since 2000. She was awarded the Finnish State Publication Prize in 2002 for her life's work, and Pro Finlandia medal in 1993.[4]

General works[edit]

The majority of Utrio's novels are historicals, set in a vast array of periods from Antiquity to the early 19th century; however, her specialty has always been the medieval period and it's for her medieval novels that she's mostly known. The main character is typically a woman, often somehow connected to Finland or Finnish history, although in the novel Vaskilintu (The Brass Bird) the other main character is a man, Eirik Väkevä. The setting is usually medieval Finland or its neighbouring countries, but faraway places like Constantinople and Calabria also feature.

The characters in Utrio's books are mostly fictional, but she also uses real historical figures as background characters. Utrio utilises her historical knowledge in great detail to strive for authenticity in depicting the lives of medieval people and to make history come alive for the readers. The private history of everyday life is a prominent element in her books, the lives of ordinary people taking precedence over political events. Everyday life is described from a woman's point of view, also reflecting the inferior position of women in historical times. Utrio writes strong and capable heroines who are able to achieve relatively good positions in life because of their strength and love.

Utrio can be seen continuing the tradition of the Finnish historical novel, including authors like Zachris Topelius, Santeri Ivalo, Mika Waltari and Ursula Pohjolan-Pirhonen. However, Utrio renewed the Finnish historical novel as a genre by raising female characters to the fore and by exploring the role women have always had in the private sphere, maintaining not only the home but social cohesion. All of her books include themes of progress: things are improved by people actively searching for new solutions. She is considered one of the founders of historical entertainment in Finnish literature, alongside of Pohjolan-Pirhonen.[6] Utrio also hardly ever uses the present tense in her narratives.

Utrio's non-fiction works focus on the history of women and children, whose lives are often not discussed in historical narratives. Eevan tyttäret (The Daughters of Eve) is one of Utrio's most notable non-fiction books. The book describes the history of women from the ancient Middle East and ancient Greece until modern times. The book has achieved international notice, and has been translated into seven languages.[7]

Her career as a widely published author has lasted more than forty years; ever since her first novel came out in 1968, she has been one of Finland's most-read authors and strives to publish a new novel each year. It has been said on the Kirjasampo website (the representative of public libraries in Finland), that she has been the single most influential author to have shaped Finnish women's thinking.[4]



Non fiction[edit]

Other works[edit]

  • Ruusulamppu (The Rose Lamp) (Kaisaniemen Dynamo 2002) (it was a booklet written for a company, is a story seemingly of the genre of historical fiction, and the company uses/used it as business gift - formerly: No information is available of the nature of this book)
  • Tulin onneni yrttitarhaan (I Came into the Herb Garden of my Happiness) (with Salme Sauri; Otava 1988)


  1. ^ a b c "FAQ (replies to most common questions by school children)". Kaari Utrio. Amanita. Retrieved 29 September 2016.
  2. ^ Muurinen, Heta. "The Imagination encounters the University". 375 humanists. Helsinki University. Retrieved 29 September 2016.
  3. ^ "Kaari Utrio". 275 humanits. Helsinki University. Retrieved 29 September 2016.
  4. ^ a b c d "Utrio, Kaari". Kirjasampo (in Finnish). Public Libraries in Finland. Retrieved 29 September 2016.
  5. ^ "Palkinnot ja luottamustoimet". 375 humanistia. Retrieved 29 September 2016.
  6. ^ Klintrup, Petra (2004). "Viihdekirjallisuus etsii uusia aiheita". Kaleva (in Finnish). Retrieved 29 September 2016.
  7. ^ "Kaari Utrio". Kirjojen takana (in Finnish). Retrieved 29 September 2016.

External links[edit]

Media related to Kaari Utrio at Wikimedia Commons