"The Brothers" is Asko Sahlberg's first novel to be translated into English. The action centres on the inhabitants of a Finnish farm covered in snow and surrounded by forest. Henrik, a bitter and frightening man, has just returned after fighting for the Russians in the 1809 Swedish-Russian war, his brother Erik was on the other side. In the claustrophobic atmosphere of the house tensions build; everyone agrees that Henrik's homecoming is a very bad thing, and the reader is prepared for a terrible climax.
Although only 120 pages, "The Brothers" feels much longer as, without being rushed, the reader is exposed to a wealth of characterization and incident. The multiple narrators enable one to see the bigger picture and diverse viewpoints confound assumptions. The writing is beautiful and vivid similes and imagery create a disturbing portentous atmosphere, such as when it is said of one character that 'his words sound like they are being squeezed out through a tangle of worms'. "The Brothers" is a worthy introduction to Peirene Press's year of the small epic.