Sointula: Island Utopia

Description

233 pages
Contains Photos, Maps, Bibliography, Index
$28.95
ISBN 1-55017-128-3
DDC 971.1'2

Author

Publisher

Year

1995

Contributor

Reviewed by Joseph Leydon

Joseph Leydon teaches geography at the University of Toronto.

Review

This charming book relates the story of the attempt to establish a
utopian commune on Malcolm Island, B.C. The idea for the commune emerged
from the writings of Finnish idealist Matti Kurikka. Kurikka’s
writings were heavily influenced by his exposure to socialism, feminist
philosophy, and theosophy in his native Finland. His arrival in Canada
followed an invitation from a group of Finnish immigrants who were
enamored of his writings and dissatisfied with their lives working in
the mines and on the railways of British Columbia. The dream was to
build a new Finland, a utopian socialist community. Malcolm Island was
selected because its isolation would allow their conscious separation
from mainstream society. Despite the enthusiasm of the settlers, the
commune struggled for years and ultimately failed due to Kurikka’s
inability to transform his ideas into practical actions and his denial
of financial realities. However, the death of the commune did not mean
the end of the settlement. Indeed, a thriving Finnish community
embodying principles of co-operation, self-reliance, and a strong
commitment to socialism remained. The author charts the development of
the settlement from its origins in the late 19th century to the 1980s
and shows how the introduction of electricity, telephones, and
television in the 1960s greatly altered the character and spirit of the
settlement.

This well-written book provides a comprehensive survey of the life of
the settlement without overwhelming the reader with excessive detail.
Each chapter is carefully crafted with enough detail to adequately
inform the reader and give a sense of the settlers’ lives. However,
there are certain aspects of the book that could have been better
developed. The treatment of the community is perhaps a little too
positive and there is insufficient discussion on the impact of change on
community spirit and organization. Also, reference to similar ideology-
and theology-based communities in Canada would have provided an
additional perspective. Nevertheless, this is a fascinating book, and a
worthy addition to Canadian history collections.

Citation

Wild, Paula., “Sointula: Island Utopia,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 26, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/1867.