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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Read the book: ignore the press reviews and the blurb
This superb book isn't a conventional crime novel and comparisons to Stieg Larsson should be ignored, although there is a common thread of violence against women. In fact, don't read the press reviews or the blurb at all: they are often misleading and seem to want to pigeon-hole Sofi Oksanen as the latest Scandinavian crime novelist, which she isn't, yet at least. Check...
Published on 6 Aug 2011 by Brian J. Cox

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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Glad I read it but not sure if I enjoyed it
I'm glad I read Purge, not sure if I enjoyed it, but will definitley go back and read it again in a couple of months.

In common with many of the reviewers I found this book alternatley gripping, frustrating, tense, boring and most stages inbetween. All the emotions of obsessive love, rivalry, jelousey, betrayal, corrpution, fear and what people will do to...
Published on 9 Oct 2011 by Sab


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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Read the book: ignore the press reviews and the blurb, 6 Aug 2011
By 
Brian J. Cox (Kirkcudbrightshire, Scotland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Purge (Paperback)
This superb book isn't a conventional crime novel and comparisons to Stieg Larsson should be ignored, although there is a common thread of violence against women. In fact, don't read the press reviews or the blurb at all: they are often misleading and seem to want to pigeon-hole Sofi Oksanen as the latest Scandinavian crime novelist, which she isn't, yet at least. Check out Wikipedia for her background once you have finished the book.

Think instead of a mixture of Ian McEwan's "Atonement", Robert Harris's Russian novels and Ruth Rendell in Barbara Vine mode. Yes, crime - terrible crime - is at the root of this book. Its characters are driven to it by human frailty, in particular by the dangerous power of obsessive love, and by their efforts to survive the terrible history inflicted on Estonians during the 50-odd years from the last days of their country's short-lived independence between the two World Wars, until the fall of the Soviet Union and Estonia's rebirth as a free nation.

It is the story of two women: Aliide, an ageing Estonian rural widow of peasant background, and Zara, a young woman who she finds lying injured outside her home and takes care of. Their lives are inter-twined in a way that only emerges slowly as the story develops through a long series of flashbacks. Aliide's story really forms the backbone of the book, and you sympathise with her even as you begin to suspect she has done terrible things. Zara's role is secondary, and perhaps a little less satisfactorily drawn; her story contains the scenes of sexual violence that some have seen as gratuitous and a reflection of the author's feminist agenda, but I think on balance are justified both in driving Zara's motivation and in showing that the new bright post-Soviet world contains horrors aplenty of its own.

"Purge" is an extraordinarily well-constructed book. It's true that in parts it is is perhaps more to be admired than liked, but it is a powerful story with a powerful message, so that is inevitable. I'm not quite sure about the coda after the main climax, but I'll have to read the book again before I make my mind up about that. Read it yourself without preconceptions and make up your own mind: it won't be easy to forget.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Glad I read it but not sure if I enjoyed it, 9 Oct 2011
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This review is from: Purge (Kindle Edition)
I'm glad I read Purge, not sure if I enjoyed it, but will definitley go back and read it again in a couple of months.

In common with many of the reviewers I found this book alternatley gripping, frustrating, tense, boring and most stages inbetween. All the emotions of obsessive love, rivalry, jelousey, betrayal, corrpution, fear and what people will do to survive are played out against the backdrop of Estonia in the build up to the Second World war, thru the occupations of Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia, onto the Cold War years and finally into the post Gorbachev era. There are parts that have a '1984' feel to them.

The timeline does jump around so you must keep track of what year the characters are in.

Some quite ordinary scenes feel very drawn out while other very dramatic events are handled with just a couple of bald sentances - I had to go back and re-read them a few times to make sure I that what I thought just happened really had happened. And yes, there are a couple of quite nasty stomach churning scenes but they aren't gratuitous and they do add a lot of emotional punch.

For me, the final coda was very effective even it did jar slightly with the way the rest of the book had been written.
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107 of 113 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very interesting story skilfully written, 10 Sep 2010
By 
hfffoman (Kent) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Purge (Paperback)
I will begin with a warning: don't read the back cover and be careful when you read reviews of this book as they give away a lot. One of the things I like about the book is the way the story, and the issues it is about, unfold bit by bit in an interesting, intriguing way. If I had read the reviews by Claire1806 or Leigh Laitila or the back cover, the experience would have been spoiled.

Of course it's hard to write a review without giving anything away. Let's just say it's about the political history of Estonia and its relationship with Russia, and some social/sexual issues. Put like that it may not sound inspiring but I assure you it is. Even if you have no interest in politics and history, the things that happen in this book feel real and moving, and are presented in a personal way without a trace of preaching or theorising.

I don't like to disagree with other reviewers but some of the comments made are so wrong I have to challenge them. Someone says the book is "about a nasty woman's obsession". This is like saying Jane Austen's novels are about pretty women. No, Purge is about Aliide's life, how she was affected by the things that happened to her and around her, and how she dealt with it. She comes across as a very real believable person. The book made me interested in her. I wanted all the time to find out more.

That review also said the book was confusing, the fate of one of the characters wasn't clear, and that it was depressing. I think the reviewer must have had a bad day. The book is not hard to understand and it is presented in such a balanced way that despite the many dark events, I wasn't at all depressed.

Every chapter begins by stating the year in which it takes place and the book skips backwards or forwards dozens of times. You have to notice the dates carefully but it isn't at all difficult to fit it all together and you won't need to keep re-reading sections - so long as you are reasonably awake.

I had never heard of Sofi Oksanen but I believe she is a very good writer. She has managed to write a book you don't want to put down, and at the same time is thoughtful and challenging.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating and thought provoking book, 28 Jan 2012
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I found this a harrowing read which I had to leave at times until I was ready to assimilate more. It alludes to the mass deportation of Estonians whom the Russians thought to be traitors, during the 1941-44 occupation. The story spans sixty years and darts back and forth with each chapter. It is a brutal story at times touching upon rape, torture, murder, betrayal and human trafficking. The story centres around three woman - Aliide, her sister Ingel and Ingel's grand-daughter Zara and their relationships. However it is Allide's story of survival which the reader follows throughout the book. It is a thrilling read, difficult at times due to the subject matter, but nevertheless compelling. The plot is fascinating, with many unexpected twists. It is extremely well written but attention needs to be paid to the time depicted in each chapter. It is a powerful and thought provoking book which leaves the reader shocked and disturbed. I highly recommend 'Purge' - I think it is very rare that a book such as this is written.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A tense story of panic, passion and politics, 16 July 2011
By 
Ralph Blumenau (London United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Purge (Paperback)
The author is a Finn born of an Estonian mother who had emigrated in the 1970s to Finland from the Soviet Union. This novel, set in Estonia, opens in 1992 soon after the country has regained its independence. An apparently paranoid old woman, Aliide, sees Zara, a traumatized, terrified, dishevelled and almost inarticulate young woman outside her house. Aliide overcomes her paranoia and reluctantly lets Zara into the house. The atmosphere is edgy. It takes some time before we discover the horrific cause of Zara's panic (much longer still before we learn more gruesome details of her experiences and of her flight), and also why Aliide had been so suspicious; and we understand why each of them conceals the truth from the other. Zara does not let on for a while that it was not an accident that had brought her to Aliide's house.

When she does, it makes Aliide recall her life during the turbulent history of Estonia - independent after the First World War, then successively under Soviet, German, and then again Soviet occupation. During this last period, those suspected of Estonian nationalism were subjected to horrific violence perpetrated by interrogators and to deportation to Siberia. Aliide had been a suspect, but had sought safety by marrying a communist organiser. Then, driven by a life-long resentment, she had committed a terrible triple act of betrayal.

The betrayal had not brought her the rewards she had expected, and her life was a torment. Now that Estonia was independent, her past counted against her; and what Zara now told her brought her yet further painful memories. The full truth, however, will be revealed to her under chilling circumstances - and not by Zara. Part IV of the book ends with how Aliide now reacts, and brings the narrative to a conclusion.

This is where I think the book should have ended; but there is then a final Part V, which consists of series of reports by the communist agents, which I found not only utterly confusing, but totally unnecessary; and the boring style of these reports adds to their anti-climactic effect.

The story has constantly moved backward and forward in time. Many of Sofi Oksanen's descriptions have been very powerful and atmospheric; at other times they were rather far-fetched; now and again they were elliptical and it was hard to make out what exactly was happening. There were a few longueurs. But on the whole, until Part V, the tension is well maintained.
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35 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Incredible Read, 29 Sep 2010
By 
Simon Savidge Reads "Simon" (Manchester, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Purge (Paperback)
`Purge' is going to be rather a hard book to write about in part because of how big the story is (not in terms of pages just in terms of story and subject matter) or because some of the book is harrowing to say the least but also because to give too much away with this story, I think, would lessen the impact it could have on a reader coming to it and to do that to a book/reading experience such as this would be a disservice. Anyway let's see how we get on.

Aliide Truu lives a slightly solitary life near woods in the Estonian countryside. One morning after waging a war with a fly, which initially you think are the only bane in her life - you'd be thinking wrong, she spots something in her garden. That something turns out to be young woman, one who is wearing expensive clothes and yet is covered in dirt and bruised, a young woman who has appeared under her tree in the dead of night, a girl Aliide knows she shouldn't take in because you can almost feel the danger coming from her, and yet Aliide does.

Slowly but surely as Aliide spends the following day or so with the girl, Zara, both Zara's recent horrific past (the fact this setting is the early nineties was quite shocking for me) starts to unfold as does Aliide's which is a past with her sister over fifty years ago which she has wiped from her brain and buried deep elsewhere. As we read on two stories unfold that look at the history of Estonia and its women, the trials they have had to face and how they endured and survived. I shall say no more on the plot other than I think this is a tale that needs to be told and therefore to be read and heard by us no matter how difficult it can get in parts.
Sofia Oksanen has written something quite amazing. It is a rare book that takes me on such an emotional journey and to such dark places and yet leaves me almost unable to put the book down. Her prose is absolutely stunning (and here I should credit Lola Rogers on a fantastic translation) and without ever being too graphic she manages to drop in enough information to let the reader work out what's going on and yet leave enough unsaid that we create the scenes in our own minds which is often the more disturbing and effective than spelling everything out.

Her two main characters Aliide and Zara are incredible creations. One initially a rather eccentric old lady living alone becomes a kind of unsung heroine, the other a girl who dreamed of a better life and took the opportunities to get there naively and with dark consequences yet who is a survivor. These characters make what could have just become a completely harrowing book (and it's not because there are some moments of humour here and there) a book that is really about triumph and how people can and will cope when pushed to the edge. It's also a tale about families.

I strongly urge people to give this book a go. I don't think books like this come around that often and it really needs to become a success worldwide (it's already done very well in the rest of Europe). No its not a cosy read for these darker nights but it's a gripping story that we all need to be told and one that Sofi Oksanen tells in a rather breath taking fashion. A must, must, must read book that may leave you changed a little after the final page.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Misleading cover blurb, 11 Feb 2013
This review is from: Purge (Paperback)
I chose this book on the strength of the blurb on the back cover where The Sunday Times wants to place Oksanen in 'the front rank of crime novelists' and The Times comments that 'Finland's hottest crime writer willl soon be as well known as Stieg Larsson'.

In my view, these endorsements do this book no favours - it is not a crime novel. Yes, there is a bit of psychological suspense, but this is secondary to the main story, which is about Aliide, wartime in Estonia, competition between sisters and how the past can catch up with you.

The novel opens in a small cottage in a forest in Estonia. It is a peasant's cottage and an old lady, Aliide lives there. On this particular morning, Aliide looks out of the window and sees that a young girl is lying on the grass. She takes her inside.

It turns out that the young girl, although Russian, has knowledge of Aliide. As Aliide has guilty secrets from the past,she is thrown into confusion about how to handle the situation - and the novel then travels back into the past, to wartime in Estonia, when people turned on each other in order to survive a punitive and dishonest regime and when loyalties were tested to their limits.

In summary, a dark, dense story that might better be described as a love story against a backdrop of Estonian history.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Shocking post-war Estonian story, 13 July 2012
By 
Eileen Shaw "Kokoschka's_cat" (Leeds, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Purge (Paperback)
Who can really know what happened all those years ago as the Estonians awaited the intervention of the English, or perhaps the Americans - but nobody came to help the smaller Russian States like Estonia, as WWII came to an end and the iron fist of Russia closed again upon its hapless populace. They were in a welfare line, and the smaller states were at the back. The Ukraine seemed to have first call on aid, others had to wait their turn.

This brilliantly brutal book tells the story of two women trapped in their own time-warps. Aliide Truu, living in the forest with her memories of wartime and afterwards, when she sought protection in the only way she could, her secrets clutched to her heart in terror and stubborn forebearance. And in the 1990s, Zara, fleeing ruthless exploiters, taking refuge where she can, and finally in the forest with Aliide. But though Aliide offers refuge, she cannot promise safety, for she cannot forget her sister Ingel and her daughter Linda, nor the man she protected from the authorities, Hans, whom she loved, though he was her sister's husband.

There is much more to this than unrequited love, as we are catapulted back and forth in time in this supremely well-organised novel. It really has an unusual and haunting story to tell with more than one uncomfortable, not to say shocking, moment. This story runs from the closing days of the war to 1992 in Tallinn, the capital of Estonia and the files kept by the KGB and its successors. It is a wrenching and unflinching story and utterly un-put-downable.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Powerful Book, Highly Recommended, 12 Dec 2011
This review is from: Purge (Paperback)
I first heard about Sofi Oksanen's Purge through Willa's blog, and as soon as I read her review of it I knew I had to read it for myself. Finally, almost four months later, I managed to get my hands on a copy. Set in Estonia during the 1940s and 1990s, it is the story of two women who have both suffered abuse.

Aliide Truu is living an old-fashioned life in rural Estonia, cut off from all her neighbours. She is happy being self-sufficient until she finds Zara, a badly beaten woman, in her garden. As Aliide begins to help Zara, she is forced to look back on her own past and involvement with both the Estonian Nationalist Movement and the Soviet state. Zara is a young Russian-Estonian girl who is visited by a friend and promised a luxurious life in the west, only to be sold as a sex slave and kept captive.

Purge is not an easy story to read. Both women go through experiences that you could only describe as horrific and some of the things that happen to Zara in particular will make your stomach churn - she loses everything except her life. Aliide's story doesn't hide from the use of rape as an interrogation technique by Soviet forces. These experiences are described graphically but not gratuitously by Oksanen, and you really feel for both women.

I went into the story knowing that there would be descriptions of sexual abuse, but for me the most disturbing thing about this book was the character of Aliide herself. Oksanen slowly reveals more and more about her and her thought processes with the result that she has created a wonderfully three dimensional and distasteful character; at times I felt very sorry for Aliide but at other times I felt disgusted with her. I didn't guess the revelation about her that comes in the closing section, and I felt that this was very clever of Oksanen.

Despite dealing with difficult subjects, Purge is definitely a worthwhile read. I finished it a few days ago and yet my mind is still buzzing with thoughts about it. It has illuminated a chapter of European history I knew very little about. Purge is also a page turner, I found it almost impossible to put this book down as I was desperate to find out what would happen to Zara and why Aliide was the way she was. It's a book that has a great impact and I would strongly recommend it.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Intensely powerful, 23 Oct 2011
This review is from: Purge (Kindle Edition)
This is one of the hardest reviews I have had to write. The book is heavily layered, and I am certain that even the slightest spoiler would do just that......spoil it! Therefore, I'm not going to reveal anything about the plotline itself. But what I will say is that Sofi Oksanen takes you on an extremely powerful journey spanning 56 years in which suspicion and betrayal change the lives of those involved forever, and ultimately end in retribution.

The wonderful thing about this book is that you can become immersed in the subdued but intense and powerful writing. The book contains some relatively explicit sexual violence in places. I read one review which said that it wasn't a problem that it existed, it was a problem that it wasn't elegantly written. But to me that IS the point, there isn't anything elegant about sexual violence, so it shouldn't be glossed over with an elegant style of writing. Sofi Oksanen perfectly captures the brutality of the situation.

Despite the extremely serious issues confronted (sex-slave trade, soviet oppression, WWII, family betrayal) Oksanen makes the book personal and this draws you in. The book spans from 1936 - 1992 and jumps back and forth to differing points between these time frames as Oksanen pieces the overlapping lives of the two women. The pace is excellent, and it fits together extremely well.

If I'm honest, I was never very good at history at school and so the background to this book wasn't that familiar to me. I don't think this took too much away from it for me, although I feel it would have been even better had I had a little more understanding. Although it is a fairly major part of the book, it is also background to the lives of the central two women to the story and so it isn't necessary for you to know every minor detail beforehand. You learn as you go along, not only about their lives but also the history that has made them that way.

Initially I was a little underwhelmed with the ending. However, I re-read the last few pages of the final narrative part (part 4) and actually it is incredibly clever with all the plans laid for everyone to end up in what Aliide thinks is their rightful place. The book has a fifth part, which is made up of Top Secret Reports. These left me a little confused, although they add a few minor details which piece together certain things, I thought they were unnecessary and I wish the book had ended with the narrative at part 4.

All in all, an intensely powerful read which is well worth it!
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Purge by Sofi Oksanen (Paperback - 1 May 2011)
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