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on 2 February 2017
In the little Finnish village of Rabbit Back, Ella Milana, substitute teacher and Literature grad with a failed relationship and an infertile womb stumbles on classic novels with changed storylines and starts her investigation at the local library. From there, she gains entry into the exclusive Rabbit Back Literature Society and finds herself in a thicker mystery surrounding its founder, enigmatic children's writer Laura White. A fantasy detective and psycho-erotic thriller unfolds.

Such a promising start, but the narrative soon falls apart under the weight of its own pompous ambitions. There are just too many instances of failed attempts to insert juicy nuggets like the secrets of the society, why the members are virtually strangers though they had been firm childhood friends, Laura White's almost ethereal persona, and Ella's own barrenness, which seemed to hint at some significance to the plot, but which turns out to be nothing more than a needless detail. There are many dogs that seem to be attracted by the supernatural but their ominous presence is there more as a mood device, and perhaps to add to the suspense and senseless violence.

There were many ideas and characters in this novel, which were too jumbled to form a plausible story, and the effect is a phantasmagoric nightmare which one can't wait to shake off with an uncomfortable shiver.
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on 4 July 2017
Really enjoyed the writing and the story. A strange tale from Finland. Set in a tiny town that produces the cream of Finish authors all mentored by the mysterious Laura White.
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VINE VOICEon 9 December 2013
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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on 9 September 2014
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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on 30 December 2014
Reading The Rabbit Back Literature Society felt like going for a long ride trusting that some amazing experience surely was just around the next wind in the road, only to find the road petering out onto a stony beach. And beyond lay the calm, grey ocean.

Admittedly this book probably was never meant for me, so you may want to make your own mind up. I struggled to whip up real interest in the story from the start but decided to continue reading, since it is a quiet time of year. Having finished it I wish I had left it for other readers who will appreciate it more.

Ella, the protagonist, is invited to join a select local writers' society when its leader mysteriously disappears. Ella turns detective. Not to discover what happened to the society's leading lady, however. She decides that the most pressing mystery that must be solved is who was the original 10th member of the society before she was. Her search forces various characters' intimate fantasies on the reader before... She gets her answer. Just like that.

If you care to read the epilogue you'll find out why the dogs were hanging around Martti's house. If you must. Don't expect any further revelations though.
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on 29 September 2014
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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on 21 April 2017
This had been recommended to me as SFF but to be honest, I think a better description of it would be magical realism - there's certainly fantasy elements in there, so trying to pigeon-hole it doesn't really work too well...

The basic premise of the book is that there is a small town, the Rabbit Back of the book's title, where a famous children's book author has been living and where she'd made it her mission to recruit talented child writers and nurture them. Everyone knows that the Literature Society has always had 9 members, all of whom have made a success of their writing career in different genres, no matter how prolific they have turned out to be. This is also a town where the supernatural seems to be very near the surface, so it probably shouldn't come as any surprise to recently-returned literature teacher Ella when she discovers that the local library's books are mutating.

When Ella is asked to join the Literature Society and then the author who runs it disappears, she uses the rules of the Society to try and find out what has been going on - there's a particular ritualised interrogation method that the authors have always been encouraged to use on one another. Ella soon discovers there was a previous tenth member, a boy nobody wants to talk about, and sets herself the task of finding out just what happened to him and why nobody can remember his name. In the end, Ella gets some answers but not all, which was a little frustrating.

In all, The Rabbit Back Literature Society was entertaining enough to keep me reading, which isn't always the easiest of tasks, and the writing itself was good. I have some issues with Ella and how she perceives herself, to the point of wondering how a female author would have dealt with the same things - in particular, early on Ella is told she can't have children due to a gynaecological problem and there's also some semi-obsessive stuff around body image that felt a little stilted. There's also a remembered event involving another of the authors that's clearly rape, even though it's not described from his perspective as being such, and that may well be an issue for many readers - to be honest, if it had happened earlier in the book, that might have been it for me.
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on 17 August 2016
Frankly I didn't get it...but still they have a published novel and I don't - so 2 extra stars because we should encourage more writers.
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on 6 February 2015
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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on 17 August 2017
Bit meh.
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