Review: The Rabbit Back Literature Society

◆ The Rabbit Back Literature Society by Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen
◆ Read October 2014
◆ English Edition
◆ Purchase: The Book Depository
◆ 
A highly contagious book virus, a literary society and a Snow Queen-like disappearing author 'She came to realise that under one reality there's always another. And another one under that.' Only very special people are chosen by children's author Laura White to join 'The Society', an elite group of writers in the small town of Rabbit Back. Now a tenth member has been selected: Ella, literature teacher and possessor of beautifully curving lips. But soon Ella discovers that the Society is not what it seems. What is its mysterious ritual, 'The Game'? What explains the strange disappearance that occurs at Laura's winter party, in a whirlwind of snow? Why are the words inside books starting to rearrange themselves? Was there once another tenth member, before her? Slowly, disturbing secrets that had been buried come to light... In this chilling, darkly funny novel, the uncanny brushes up against the everyday in the most beguiling and unexpected of ways.
Sometimes when you read a good book, it's impossible to write a review about it. The Rabbit Back Literature Society is like that. I really enjoyed it, but I can't seem to pinpoint exactly what it is I liked so much. For the sake of my blog, I still tried to get my thoughts on paper (or screen).

The thing that captured my interest most was the strikingly different balance of a realistic world and the extraordinary, magical things that happen in it. Rabbit Back is like any other town where people have jobs and families, hopes and dreams like the average citizen. The introduction of Rabbit Back Literature Society that mentors gifted young writers is not so unusual either if you think about it. However, details like the strange disappearance of the famous author, the gnomes and ghosts haunting backyards, the spreading book virus etc. made an ordinary world extraordinary. I loved the peculiar little details because each and every single one of them provided a mystery that I wanted to figure out. It got me very invested in the story.

Jääskeläinen is a very good writer. Not only is the plot very original (which is a real blessing nowadays), the language was beautifully constructed. I'm not sure if it's characteristic of Finnish/Scandinavian writers in general, but I got a different vibe from her book than I did with any other European literature, which was very refreshing. 

The strange thing about the ending is that it's both good and bad. I liked it because the revelation about the boy put the entire story into a completely different perspective. It was a nice twist and somehow very fitting. 

At the same time though, that was the only appealing thing about the ending. I like a bit of an open ending, but this was just unsatisfying and left too many questions unanswered. Why were the dogs there, who was the phantom, where did the book virus come from, where is Laura White? I had hoped that at least some of the mysteries that dominate the plot would be solved, but I was disappointed.

Apart from that one fault though, I loved The Rabbit Back Literature Society. It's different and weird but also really interesting. If you don't go in it expecting a lot, and just go with the flow, you'll probably enjoy it. I for one do hope some of Jääskeläinen's other books will be translated into English or Dutch.

4 stars because:
✓ Realistic AND magical
✓ Original
✓ Beautifully written
✓ Fitting relevation towards end
✗ The rest of the ending was unsatisfying

 

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