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The Brothers Paperback – 30 Jan 2012


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Product details

  • Paperback: 112 pages
  • Publisher: Peirene Press Ltd (30 Jan. 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 095628406X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0956284068
  • Product Dimensions: 12.5 x 1.2 x 19 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 415,115 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"a brooding family drama that has something of the timeless quality of good soap opera" Nicholas Lezard, Guardian "intense hatreds trickle through this short novel like meltwater" Observer "intensely visual ... a brooding, atmospheric, Scandinavian late night movie" Independent on Sunday "This short, intense novel examines concepts of home, inheritance and the connection between personal and international conflict." Times Literary Supplement

About the Author

Asko Sahlberg, born 1964, has acquired a fame in Finland that has yet to be replicated in the English speaking world. He published his first novel in 2000 and has written steadily since then, completing his ninth work, The Brothers, in 2010.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Eleanor TOP 500 REVIEWER on 9 Feb. 2012
Format: Paperback
"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.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Freckles VINE VOICE on 17 May 2012
Format: Paperback
This small novel packs a real punch. An epic tale told in intricate fashion, somehow crafted in to 122 pages.
The author has created a dark and brooding atmosphere at an icy Finnish farm in 1809 following the Swedish-Russian war. There dwells two brothers, Henrik and Erik, their mother (The Old Mistress), the much put upon Farmhand and a couple of servants, one of them new to this unhappy household. Henrik and Erik have fought the war on opposite sides and the tension that exists within that farmhouse is palpable. Then there is the horse....or is it just a horse? The Farmhand has grave misgivings about the sense in Henrik owning such a malevolent beast which symbolises so much more than meets the eye.

Sahlberg has created a web of intrigue and mystery which has been compared to a Shakespearean drama and William Faulkener's "As I Lay Dying" ....... well deserved comparisons I must say. It is a supremely talented writer who can create vivid characters with their faults, fears and foibles in such few words. I will not reveal the turn of events for fear of ruining the readers' enjoyment. Suffice it to say that you will be gripped and surprised, no shocked, as the story unfolds.

A wonderful premiere to the fabulous Peirene's small epic series for 2012. They never fail to present us with beautifully translated European fiction which deserves to be enjoyed and not overlooked. Their dedication to this cause is admirable and pretty unique.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on 9 Mar. 2012
Format: Paperback
The Brothers by Asko Sahlberg is set at the end of The Finnish War, fought between Sweden and the Russian Empire (Feb' 1808 - Sept' 1809) the result of this war was that the eastern third of Sweden was established as the autonomous Grand Duchy of Finland within the Russian Empire. The book starts with the brothers, who have fought on opposing sides, returning to their family farmhouse. With their return old scars resurface, old conflicts born out of past tragedies. The elder brother, Henrik, is embittered, having long been alienated from his family after first being cheated by a neighbour and then his younger brother Erik. This book manages within it's 122 pages to cover all those epic themes of treachery & conflict, whether through sexual tensions or those family secrets that simmer below the surface or whether contrasting the politics of war with those of family.

As this tale unfolds, each character takes their turn in revealing more of the story in a series of dramatic monologues, that made me think of Alan Bennett's TV show Talking Heads, (written for BBC television -1988) creating a multiple narrative that's dark and full of a foreboding that is as dark and chilling as winter. In fact this whole book is as dark and dense as wading through deep snow, and like traipsing through this landscape, you feel you've been traipsing for ages and nothing has changed until you look up and find you've journeyed miles. This is a small book that portrays grand themes and yet does so by focusing it's lens on this family and it's brooding tale, where the passion burns bitter, another way it reminded me was in the similar themes of death, guilt and isolation.

Asko Sahlberg, born 1964, has acquired a fame in Finland that has yet to be replicated in the English speaking world.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Amy Henry on 6 Mar. 2012
Format: Paperback
Translated from the Finnish by Emily Jeremiah and Fleur Jeremiah

"I sensed that motherhood was terrible, perhaps sweet at times, but above all terrible. Not because one human child would be more horrendous than another, nor is it so that offspring cannot bring joy when little and be useful when grown up, but because motherhood makes it possible for future generations to be rocked by dark tragedies."

The Old Mistress in this snowy and tense Finnish tale reflects on her early impressions of motherhood, and what sort of legacy her two sons would be for her. It's right that she worries, for she is desperately miserable in her desolate forest home, where she has to deal with "people whose speech tells you they have rough palms" as well as a sickly husband. Added to this, she has furtive servants and two wildly opposing boys, Erik and Henrik.

Erik and Henrik are introduced as quarrelsome boys who end up on opposite sides during the war between Sweden and Russia (this takes place in 1809). Neither character is fully exposed, so the tension between the two is immediately apparent while the meaning behind it is delayed. As the plot twists, the reader can see that this was intended...for the reader is given no easy clues to unravel the family's drama.

"...for a time I was able to watch the boys grow up with at least distant pride. But boys are fated to grow into men, and a mother has to follow this tragedy as a silent bystander. And now it seems they will kill each other, and then this, too, can be added to my never-ending list of losses."

The character of their mother, the Old Mistress, is one of the most powerful female characters to be found in modern fiction: she has no saving grace that makes her likable or even necessary.
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