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31 of 31 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Singular gem from Finland
This is perhaps one of the weirdest, strangest book I have read in a long time. Captivating, hypnotic nearly, I was from the start hooked on the peculiar story of books borrowed from Rabbit Back town's library, with oddly changed plotline in them, such as classics like Crime and Punishment. Ella, the heroine, is so puzzled that she quietly starts her inquest into what is...
Published 16 months ago by Ann Fairweather

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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A mixed bag of quirky writing
Some parts of this book are good, some parts of it bad. The writing is at times delightful, but at others focuses on irrelevances. My main problem is that it contains about a thousand of Chekhov's guns ("If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off. If it's not going to be fired, it...
Published 7 months ago by A. Hewitt


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31 of 31 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Singular gem from Finland, 9 Dec. 2013
By 
Ann Fairweather (England) - See all my reviews
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This is perhaps one of the weirdest, strangest book I have read in a long time. Captivating, hypnotic nearly, I was from the start hooked on the peculiar story of books borrowed from Rabbit Back town's library, with oddly changed plotline in them, such as classics like Crime and Punishment. Ella, the heroine, is so puzzled that she quietly starts her inquest into what is going on behind the scenes at the library. But soon, at the time of her father's death, she is made the tenth member of the secret club of Rabbit Back literature Society. Laura White is the adored but elusive president of the Society and at the celebration evening of the Tenth member, she simply vanishes in the midst a snow storm. What happened to Laura White is then the on-going mystery...But there is a lot of mysteries to unveil as Ella tried to discover the dark truth behind the elitist little society of the other nine writers and what exactly is 'The Game' about...This is a totally bizarre, striking and riveting book, with a very Finnish atmosphere, not unlike the odd Moomins books. It talks about the mystery of writing, how vampirish writers have to be, sucking out all material possible from around them, but the style is strongly evocative of fairy tales, dreams, myths. It is full of snow and long Nordic nights, and fabulously enjoyable...
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A mixed bag of quirky writing, 9 Sept. 2014
By 
A. Hewitt (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Rabbit Back Literature Society (Kindle Edition)
Some parts of this book are good, some parts of it bad. The writing is at times delightful, but at others focuses on irrelevances. My main problem is that it contains about a thousand of Chekhov's guns ("If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off. If it's not going to be fired, it shouldn't be hanging there.").

Whilst I do enjoy the magic realism at play, the author seems unsure of how far to go with it, to the point that pretty much everything of interest in the book might be 'real' or might be fantastical. This can sometimes work, with unreliable narrators and differing points of view leaving you with an open ending that you have to fill in yourself, but for me this just goes too far, despite the attempt to suddenly wrap everything up in the epilogue (which is really not an epilogue at all, but a continuation of the story to an ending).

All in all, I was entertained, and expecting to give 4 stars, but the ending didn't really seem to know where it wanted to land with regards to the fantasy aspects, and the final 'reveal' didn't really work for me.

Others clearly enjoyed this more than me, though, so if you like quirky literary tales it might be for you. The ride is certainly entertaining, even if I found the destination slightly unfulfilling.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sublime, 29 Sept. 2014
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This review is from: The Rabbit Back Literature Society (Kindle Edition)
This book is a culture shock. It revels in being cold and alien, but would be shocked, in a way, that you would think that mattered. It's very self-indulgent, with a nested structure that genuinely makes you feel like the book is ignoring you, only listening to itself. But since the theme of voyeurism is so central to it, it's as if you couldn't get this story if you didn't feel like you were eavesdropping on it.

There's a point where one character plans to write a novel, "respectful of the realistic tradition of Finnish literature." You can feel the snigger of the author as you read it. It might be the nicest bit of satire written in a very long time. This book is equal parts magic and brutal honesty, speculating wildly about how unfantastic our lives really are. It's genuinely frightening in places but ends with almost saccharine generosity. I found it hard to dislike a word of it. Bring me another.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Darkly atmospheric, surreal and thoroughly entertaining., 21 Oct. 2014
By 
JK "J. K." (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Rabbit Back Literature Society (Kindle Edition)
One of the strangest books I've read in a long time. Suits me fine. I'm a real fan of the darkly surreal.

There's a bit of everything here from beautiful prose, romance and mystery all mixed together with nicely worked, mild, supernatural elements. There's also a lot of twisted humour but you have to look out for it because nothing's what or how you might expect.

The whole idea of 'weird fiction' in the wacky town of Rabbit Black with it's secret literary society, disappearances and novels that possess a life of their own is so nicely put together I was hooked in from the start.

There are a few bits and pieces that don't quite work and the author seemed unwilling to fully explore some of the fantasy elements which is a shame. I also found the ending somewhat unrewarding but; there's enough good stuff here that I'm happy to overlook the 'bumpy bits'.

Recommended.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A most weird, wondrous, playful, dark and fantastical tale. Beware of writers bearing gifts., 12 Dec. 2014
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This review is from: The Rabbit Back Literature Society (Kindle Edition)
Finnish writer Pasi Ilmari Jaaskelainen has written a creepily seductive, thought provoking, alluring and wickedly mischievous book, which might have special appeal for writers, since writers, aspiring and world famous, and the nature of fiction itself, is the subject matter.

Books have started to mysteriously change in Rabbit Back, a small town in Finland. Rabbit Back is also home to a world famous children's writer, Laura White, who writes children's' books about a dark and mysteriously peopled world. Inevitably, being a world famous Finnish children's' author writing about invented, strange creatures which have a fascination for adults as well as children, there are obvious possible parallels that Tove Jansson may have been the initial inspiration for Jaaskelainen.

Laura White, it transpires, gathered around her a group of children, with the aim of grooming them into becoming writers. All are now grown, and famous authors in their own right.

However...there was a dark mystery behind Laura White's creation of the Rabbit Back Literature Society, and its small, select recruited members. And the group also have an arcane, and somewhat deadly practice - The Game, which has evolved over the years, and exists for a set purpose of furthering the craft, practice and ritual of writing itself.

The membership of the society has been restricted to 9, for many decades. Until a young teacher, with a recently published story, is invited by White to become the tenth member. Ella Milana, as well as becoming the newest member of the Society, is a keen literary researcher, and has discovered the strange changes appearing in classic texts.

Milana has agendas of her own to pursue when something cataclysmic happens at the party which secretive, revered, Laura White gives, to introduce Milana as the tenth member, to the other nine, and to the wider, glittering celebrity world who accord White some kind of literary goddess status.

And this is Finland, where a belief in dark elementals may be more widespread. Snow, and the Far North, do weird and wonderful things to imagination

So, we have some strange conglomerate of a David Lynch Twin Peaks type clever weirdness, a crime investigation, an arcane, cultish group of highly intelligent, ruthlessly ambitious-in-the-pursuit-of-their-craft writers, Folkloric background, and a wonderful, wickedly dark and playful imagination. Not to mention a clear love of literature, and its power, and many reflections on just why writers write, who they are, how they do it, and how and why we read.

"Everybody comes to the library naked. That's why they come here-to dress themselves in books"

It's a joy. It's a gem. It's dark, spooky, not completely explained by reason. And I want more from Pasi Ilmari Jaaskelainen. There seem to be a couple of short stories translated into English, but not, at the moment, any second novel. Keep writing Pasi Ilmari, keep writing.

The translation must also be commended (I assume, not knowing Finnish!) because I had no sense of the clunky, as happens when translation is done by those who are too literal, and miss some kind of `writerly sensibilities. So I hope Lola M. Rogers is also making sure that Pasi Ilmari is steadily working on another book, which she will translate

"Reality was a game board for all of humanity to play on, formed from all human interaction. You could in principle make it up out of anything you wished, provided you all agreed on it. But it was easiest if everyone used square pieces, because they would all fit together and form a seamless whole"
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Curiously unsatisfying, 6 Feb. 2015
By 
The Inquisitor (Northumberland, UK) - See all my reviews
A curious read, in which you don't even know what type of book it is until the last few pages - murder mystery? Ghost story? Sci-fi? Psychological thriller?
I wanted to like it, and there were times I was undeniably drawn in, but there were too many elements I found unsatisfactory. As a device for uncovering a mystery, the existence of a game which obliges people to tell the truth is just too convenient. A brief moment when things get exciting fizzles out lamely. Strange supernatural occurrences are thrown in and forgotten about in what feels more like a self-conscious attempt at whimsy than anything else.
On the positive side, it's very atmospheric and Ella Milana is an engaging heroine (although of female academic/literary protagonists, I thought Ariel Manto in The End of Mr Y was better). And to be fair, everything is tied up reasonably neatly in an exciting ending - unfortunately, for me, it was too late to rescue a book which wasn't exactly bad but just a bit underwhelming.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars brilliant magical realism Finnish novel, 29 Dec. 2013
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This book deserves much more glowing reviews, so here goes. This is a wonderful novel about is about literature, books, the Game, mythology and snow. It starts with aspiring author Ella Milana, who has lovely curving lips and defective ovaries. She is invited to join exclusive writers club, the Rabbit Back Literature Society, where she meets the other members, and plays the Game with them to find out their biggest secrets. In the meantime, Laura White, founder of the RBLS has vanished, and who was she anyway? Laura's novels about Creatureville are so popular people make mythological statues based on the characters, and mythological mapping.

Well, it does all make sense, in a surreal Finnish magical realism sense. And it's wonderful, give it a go.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Mutability of Story, 27 Jan. 2015
By 
Quicksilver (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Rabbit Back Literature Society (Kindle Edition)
I read this book over Christmas. I thought the Finnish setting and wintry backdrop might somehow be enhanced by the festive period. Boy was that wrong. Chances to sit and read for any length of time were few and far between and as books go, this one is definitely a large hot-tub full to the brim with expensive Christmas-gift bubble bath. You don't want to be dipping in and out. You want to luxuriate in its baffling, quirky majesty.

From the town of Rabbit Back hails Laura White, an international bestselling children's author. White has written a series of fantasy books featuring anthropomorphised animals. She is in essence the love child of JK Rowling and Kenneth Graham. She's also not in the book very much. Twenty or so years ago, Laura White started the Rabbit Back Literature Society in order to find and nurture hopeful young writers. By young, I mean school age. To be chosen was a great honour and there were only ever to be ten members. For years there have been nine. The tenth was never discovered. The existing nine all went on to have successful literary careers of their own.

Lonely Ella Milana, a literature teacher with little remarkable about her, finds herself being invited to be the tenth member; a talent worthy of Laura White's time and energy. Laura is initiated into the society where she discovers at its heart a curious game. Beyond that, strange things are afoot in Rabbit Back, not least of all a mysterious library copy of Dostoevsky with the ending changed.

This is a wonderful mishmash of a book, with the impossible residing next to the mundane, and fairy tales snuggled up to the kitchen sink. It is in essence a story about stories. About how they change over time, and how they depend on the reader. It's also greatly concerned with the creative process. 'The Game' is a method in which members of the Rabbit Back Literature society could peel back layers one another's psyche, probing their innermost secrets in order to gain material for novels. It's peculiar, yet enthralling; an examination of the myriad ways one can look at something. This is particularly noticeable by the way the fledging Ella asks very factual questions, whereas the experienced novelists she's thrown in with see the world in altogether different way, asking far more subtle and psychologically testing questions.

I'll be honest and say I struggled with this book. It's continual rubbing up of the surreal, real and psychological made for an uneven read. The narrative was forever shifting and I found it difficult to keep hold of a sense of story. Ironic for a novel about stories. The writing though is fabulous. Evocative words and sentences jump of the page. It's a beautifully observed novel, but I failed much of the time to find a sense of whole. It was like a patchwork quilt of clashing colours, where the finished article is less than each individual square.

The book was a book group choice, and it was only after sitting and discussing it with friends, that I realised how much I had enjoyed it. How many little things I had absorbed without noticing. How many things I completely missed. Each member of the group brought something different they'd noticed about the novel to the table. It made for one of our best conversations yet (out of 8 years and counting). After the group discussion, I felt much more kindly towards the Rabbit Back Literature Society. It is a very accomplished novel, cleverly constructed. There are dozens of references and influences. It is indeed a patchwork, and while its colours clashed at first, there is something unique about its riotous splendour. It's a definitely a book that would bear rereading, and in light of all the things we discussed, this is something I aim to do. Just not at Christmas.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic, 12 April 2014
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This review is from: The Rabbit Back Literature Society (Kindle Edition)
I rarely write reviews, but this is such a wonderfully different book that I know I will read again and find things that I missed. Worth a read!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars From quirky to weird to intriguing, 30 Jun. 2014
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This review is from: The Rabbit Back Literature Society (Kindle Edition)
I downloaded a sample of this book because I was intrigued by the title. The sample was sufficiently quirky (I do like quirky) to persuade me to buy the book. Reading further, it went from quirky to downright weird, but in a good way. You're bound to be hooked as the secrets of the Literature Society are gradually revealed, leading to a very odd ending indeed. I loved the style of writing, with that underlying melancholy that reminded me a great deal of the work of Tove Jansson. This is a story that has taken up residence in the dim recesses of my memory and which keeps prodding to remind me that it's still there.
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The Rabbit Back Literature Society
The Rabbit Back Literature Society by Pasi Ilmari Jaaskelainen
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