I first heard of The Rabbit Back Literature Society by Pasi Ilmari Jaaskelainen, at Book Depository’s “What’s new” section and I fell in love with the title. So, I asked the publishers for a review copy and they kindly sent me one.
Pushkin Press focuses in translated fiction: The Rabbit Back Literature Society is translated from its Finnish original by Lola Rogers. It describes the journey of Ella Milana, a Finnish literature teacher who has returned to her native village where there is a literary society founded by well-known author Laura White. The society only has 9 members out of the 10 they can have, and when Ella is invited to be the tenth, she is super excited. So, as you can see, I would have normally loved this book. I actually wanted really much to like. I even highlighted some paragraphs! But somehow, the book did not work for me.
On the one hand, I was not at all comfortable with the story. There is a strong presence of local myths that made me suspicious and, probably because I am not at all familiar with Finnish mythology, as if I were getting the whole meaning of the scene. The setting is also very particular, a small Finnish town where everyone knows each other and where this literature society seems totally out of place.
On the other hand, I had lots of trouble sympathizing with Ella Milana. She is young (around 25) and has a teaching position, yet she feels miserable! All during the 100 pages I read I found her selfish and whinny. She almost behaved like a teenager who wants more than she has worked for. For this reason, I thought the Finnish original could have been a YA novel or one of those new “young adult” ones and it was probably the reason why she did not appeal to me at all.
So, I was really sad to find myself disappointed with this book, but I am willing to maybe give it another try later on and see if my issues were just temporary or maybe the book is not for me. Many thanks to Pushkin Press for sending me a review copy.