This short yet profound, intensely disturbing novel is one of that rare species that reverberate in your mind long after you have put them down. I've read it once so far, but thought about it on and off for days since. Like some Jacobean/ Shakespearean dramas, it is by turns poetic and farcical; intensely violent, full of sound and fury, yet there are brief moments of great beauty, music and uplift - like the distillation of an arctic starlit night. It will take much serious discussion to tease out all the layers of meaning and symbol, but to me this story encapsulates in miniature much of the darkest horrors of the twentieth century and consequently the one we now inhabit. Using linguistic elements (a central strand) to reflect a far wider perspective - one of centuries/millennia rather than months or years - it raises profound questions about human society, our relationships with one another and with the physical and animal world. Such answers as it may suggests in no way flatter the human race. The Guardian reviewer's reference to Scandinavian detectives/ thrillers is seriously misleading. Yes, there are murders, rape, cruelty and vicious scheming, as in Jacobean dramas, but it is the pattern produced that holds the key. The overall impression one ends with seems profoundly pessimistic, and rightly so. We are a vicious species. But then, but then... there is still the music, the rhythmic beat.....perhaps all is not lost?
I have made no references to plot or incident to avoid spoilers. Like all great writing, the events of this book surprise and shock, often simultaneously or in rapid succession. I struggled with the author's New Finnish Grammar, which I am still only half way through, but to which I will now return.
Do not be put off by the technical linguistic stuff. It is what it signifies that matters, so go with the flow, as I did. This is not a book to speed-read, but one to dwell on, with relish, and afterthought.