A highly contagious book virus, a literary society and a Snow Queen-like disappearing author ‘She came to realise that under one reality there’s always another. And another one under that.’ Only very special people are chosen by children’s author Laura White to join ‘The Society’, an elite group of writers in the small town of Rabbit Back. Now a tenth member has been selected: Ella, literature teacher and possessor of beautifully curving lips.
But soon Ella discovers that the Society is not what it seems. What is its mysterious ritual, ‘The Game’? What explains the strange disappearance that occurs at Laura’s winter party, in a whirlwind of snow? Why are the words inside books starting to rearrange themselves? Was there once another tenth member, before her? Slowly, disturbing secrets that had been buried come to light… In this chilling, darkly funny novel, the uncanny brushes up against the everyday in the most beguiling and unexpected of ways.
I picked up this book at the library because I saw the English translation first. I thought that maybe, if I liked it, I could share it with my non-Finnish speaking friends. And at first, it looked like everything I could have hoped for.
The language is terse and to the point just how I like it, and I was planning a discussion post on comparing the original to the translation and how language affects the reading experience. There are even a few jokes I wanted to see if they worked in English.
There is some repetition, which normally makes me itchy, but here it was a clue how to approach the story. Or so I thought at the time. I clung to the opportunity as I was trying to ignore a very poor female characterisation choice from a male author.
The faulty ovaries. The total sum of self for Ella Amanda Milana is her faulty ovaries leaving her the genetic dead end of her family. At first it looked to be a crutch, which would soon be forgotten as the author moves on, but it never went away.
And then the game started. The literature society members each have an opportunity to challenge one another to a game where there is one question and the absolute truth for an answer at any cost. Ella uses the game to find out more about Laura Lumikko (translated Laura White) who founded this literature society, and in turn bleeds the painful truths about her barrenness, father’s death, and, of course, her sexual fantasies.
Because what else would the male players of the Game be interested in. Instead of finding out more about the lukewarm mystery that barely holds this book together, the author focuses in pornographic detail to Ella’s sexuality and fascination with the obese writer of the group. And hell, let’s throw in another male author’s domestic violence rape in for absolutely no reason ever to make this a perversion bingo.
The magical realism and the supernatural mystery were in fact just an excuse to see the old fat man have sex with a young slender woman.