There is a somewhat dirge-like quality to this story of Finland peasants, of the drear and bleak life of penniless crofters, without one alleviating moment of better fortune. A drunken father and a cowed and slatternly mother both die and an uncle and aunt in better fortune, take the boy, Jussi, when he is orphaned, but thrust their charity upon his consciousness. He never becomes more than the slow-witted, clumsy child, and his adult life follows the pattern of his childhood -- a sordid picture. Eventually, an old man, victim of circumstances in an abortive proletarian revolution, he faces a firing squad and reviews his life. Little drama, no play of light and shadow, realistic to the point of painfulness -- and relief only in occasional passages of beautiful writing.