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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 selec 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.


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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 selec 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.

30 review for The Rabbit Back Literature Society

  1. 5 out of 5

    karen

    an enthusiastic 3.5 erin was good enough to send me her copy of this book, which i had already requested from netgalley, but since i have had really poor luck lately getting approved in a timely manner, she offered to mail me hers. and wouldn't you know - the day it arrived in my mailbox was the same day i got approved on netgalley. and after all those folks throwing the book at me, i just wish i'd loved it more than i did. i love the cover, the font, the premise, and when i read the list of compar an enthusiastic 3.5 erin was good enough to send me her copy of this book, which i had already requested from netgalley, but since i have had really poor luck lately getting approved in a timely manner, she offered to mail me hers. and wouldn't you know - the day it arrived in my mailbox was the same day i got approved on netgalley. and after all those folks throwing the book at me, i just wish i'd loved it more than i did. i love the cover, the font, the premise, and when i read the list of comparisons on the back cover: twin peaks, the brothers grimm, The Shadow of the Wind, Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore, The Secret History, Let the Right One In, i thought "this book is for ME!" but when the words "chilling" and "creepy" are used, i have certain expectations. i thought this would be a perfect companion book to The Supernatural Enhancements - spooky and dark with a hook for bookish types. and it's a good book, but when it's put in that lineup, there's an element missing. i just didn't find it sinister enough. it's more than there's a quirky charm to it that overshadows anything even a little creepy. so if you go in knowing that, i think you will have a more realistic expectation of what's in store. there are things that are odd, whimsical, and eerie, but nothing to keep you up all night. i like the writing, although there's something about it that is also that ineffable "something" that i have found in pretty much every book i've read from a nordic country - it's a stylistic similarity that leaves me feeling a little flat - like i'm missing something, like it's written at a remove. and be prepared for a lot of unresolved bits at the end. there's a kind of abrupt twisty bit at the end that answers one question, but leaves a lot of danglers. i know this sounds like i didn't like the book, but i did. i enjoyed reading it, and there are parts of it still in my head, but i also feel slightly befuddled. i can point to the parts that didn't work for me, but not the ones that did. and yet i have a positive feeling overall when i think of this book. perhaps this review will be improved with wine. it's worth trying. nope, wine just made me sleepy. regardless, i enjoyed reading this one, and i would be really interested to hear other people's reactions because for some reason, i am unable to articulate my own. come to my blog!

  2. 4 out of 5

    Nikki

    It pains me to say this, but this is one of the worst books I've read in a long time. Normally I would have given up on it halfway through, but everything I had read about it made it seem like just the kind of thing I'd like. I don't even know where to start with all that's wrong with it. I guess I should start with the writing, which is just terrible. Maybe it's a bad translation (I read it in English), but it was honestly just dreadfully written. The way a 14-year-old would write a school essa It pains me to say this, but this is one of the worst books I've read in a long time. Normally I would have given up on it halfway through, but everything I had read about it made it seem like just the kind of thing I'd like. I don't even know where to start with all that's wrong with it. I guess I should start with the writing, which is just terrible. Maybe it's a bad translation (I read it in English), but it was honestly just dreadfully written. The way a 14-year-old would write a school essay. Then the plot... There are few things I hate more than when a book pretends to be magical realism, but is actually just really depressing reality (see also: Some Kind Of Fairy Tale). The 'Game' was absolutely ridiculous. The reactions of the people involved (sleeping for ages, having a stroke, etc) were just crazy. Being honest doesn't do that to people. And then there are the endless mentions of the main character's 'beautifully curving lips' and her nipples and her barrenness and a lot of weird sex stuff. Why was that there? The fact that this was written by a man make me feel intensely uncomfortable about all of that. Oh, and what's with calling people by their full name? It got to the point where I would have to fight the urge to chuck this wretched book across the room every time I read the words 'Ella Milana' (what kind of a name is that anyway?). Just... ugh. The thing is, I was expecting this to be great. To have a book you have such high expectations for, end up sucking so much, is just the worst.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Sue

    This has been one of the stranger reading experiences I've had for some time---a book that bridges the real and fantastic worlds by way of an unusual local society of writers, writers developed from childhood by a mysterious local celebrity author, Laura White. This is not a book for those who crave realism or set chronology. They will despair and probably leave the story behind. There were moments of somewhat awkward writing/transitions (or was it awkward translating) where I wondered where the This has been one of the stranger reading experiences I've had for some time---a book that bridges the real and fantastic worlds by way of an unusual local society of writers, writers developed from childhood by a mysterious local celebrity author, Laura White. This is not a book for those who crave realism or set chronology. They will despair and probably leave the story behind. There were moments of somewhat awkward writing/transitions (or was it awkward translating) where I wondered where the story was going, but I found that I really did want to know. Rabbit Back is not a children's story though Laura White wrote children's books and initially worked with children. The children are now adults and live adult lives. Into this odd mix walks Ella, a temporary teacher who discovers a book with an apparent "virus". Somehow Crime and Punishment has changed. It's characters are not living up to expectations--as she finds out when she reads a student's essay on the classic and then confronts him on his errors. She is about to fall down a "rabbit hole" of sorts. (sorry, I couldn't resist) As I reached the last page and finished reading the book, I said to my self --- ??? --- and then began to think about all that had come before in the novel: the development of writers, the search for subject matter, the mutation of books, the search for the truth of the society itself. Then I began to think about another question that was also asked many times---how did you get your ideas? I think that I like the author's answer very much. (or should I say what I see as his answer) A copy of this book was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest review.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Blair

    I didn't think I was ever going to read this book. I got it about a year ago, and then I read a few lukewarm reviews that decried it as cosy and twee. At that point, I put it to one side and sort of forgot about it. However, this month so far I have only really felt in the mood for cosy books, so I thought it might be just what I needed. Perhaps my low expectations made me more receptive to the book, because not only did I really like it, I also found it surprisingly less cosy and twee than I had I didn't think I was ever going to read this book. I got it about a year ago, and then I read a few lukewarm reviews that decried it as cosy and twee. At that point, I put it to one side and sort of forgot about it. However, this month so far I have only really felt in the mood for cosy books, so I thought it might be just what I needed. Perhaps my low expectations made me more receptive to the book, because not only did I really like it, I also found it surprisingly less cosy and twee than I had expected. Although it is whimsical throughout, at points it has a real darkness to it. The fictional Finnish town of Rabbit Back is the setting for an odd, quirky, twisty tale which involves: a contagious 'book plague' causing novels' contents to change; the disappearance of a famous children's author; a psychological 'Game' which requires its players to spill their innermost secrets; and the unsolved mystery of a prodigiously talented boy's death. The titular Rabbit Back Literature Society is an elite club, made up of a group of nine children who have all grown up to be successful writers. It has, supposedly, never had a tenth member, until substitute English teacher Ella Milana - who has only ever written one short story - is invited to join. Ella's interest, though, is less in becoming an author and more in digging into the murky history of the Society, a pursuit that causes her to uncover more and more secrets at every turn. The unpredictability of the plot makes for a compelling and magical read. My original assessment was partly right, as it is all quite twee - a story about an idiosyncratic, snow-bound town in which everyone is obsessed with children's books and mythical creatures can hardly avoid that. But I wouldn't call it cosy; there are some details that are downright disturbing. There are just enough hints of weirdness to keep you wondering whether there is an element of fantasy at work here, something compounded by the characters' frequent surreal dreams. Ella's research creates a patchwork of different accounts of the same events, a fascinating range of memories and interpretations, a theme that seems very fitting for a 'book about books'. The things that annoyed me were mainly to do with needless repetition. The thing about Ella's 'lovely, curving lips' or 'beautiful curving lips' was so stupid - I remember that description being one of the main things that put me off continuing to read the book when I initially read the first page - and anyway, doesn't everyone have 'curving' lips? Is there a contingent of people with rectangular lips that I'm not aware of? Also (I've said it before and will continue to say it) one of my biggest pet hates is when a narrative constantly repeats a character's full name for no reason. There is only one Ella in the book, so absolutely no need for her to be referred to as 'Ella Milana' in every second paragraph. Finally, (view spoiler)[Ella's relationship with Martti felt rather like wish fulfilment on the part of the author, but I quite liked it anyway so I wasn't too bothered about that (hide spoiler)] . Aside from those small, but irritating, things, there isn't actually anything much wrong with the book at all - although the ending leaves various loose ends unresolved, which may disappoint some readers. Myself, I didn't even realise that certain mysteries hadn't been solved until I started writing this review. I would have liked to know (view spoiler)[the truth about Laura (hide spoiler)] , and yet I still found the book a satisfying read without knowing that. This is a good winter book, comforting and easily readable with enough edge to keep it more interesting than you might expect.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Matthew Quann

    [3.5 Stars] The Rabbit Back Literature Society will undoubtedly be the quirkiest book I’ll read this year. It is also one that I think a lot of you will enjoy! I decided to pick The Rabbit Back Literature Society up on two accounts. The first: I wanted to read more international authors in 2016 and Finnish author Jääskeläainen fits the bill. The second: the AV Club picked this book as one of their favorites of 2015 and I tend to trust their judgment. Roughly, the plot: Ella Milana is a young school [3.5 Stars] The Rabbit Back Literature Society will undoubtedly be the quirkiest book I’ll read this year. It is also one that I think a lot of you will enjoy! I decided to pick The Rabbit Back Literature Society up on two accounts. The first: I wanted to read more international authors in 2016 and Finnish author Jääskeläainen fits the bill. The second: the AV Club picked this book as one of their favorites of 2015 and I tend to trust their judgment. Roughly, the plot: Ella Milana is a young schoolteacher with literary aspirations who is inducted into the illustrious Rabbit Back Literature Society. There she joins a group of nine established authors and, on the night of her induction into the society, the society’s teacher disappears in an indoor snowstorm. This happens only a few pages after it is established that there is some sort of book plague changing classic works of literature in the Rabbit Back library. It only gets stranger from there. It seems Ella isn't the first tenth member of the group. A tenth boy was also once a member of the Rabbit Back Literature Society, and rumour has it he may have been the most talented writer of the group. Ella becomes obsessed with discovering the boy's fate while having to navigate the enigmatic society. I suppose the only thing I could compare this to would be Haruki Murakami’s work: very absurd things happen and there's no guarantee you’ll get an explanation. Luckily, the writing is also odd, mysterious, and more than a little creepy, which complements the story well. The expository passages choose subjects that are endlessly strange. Par example: a several page description of a naked obese man, that features a paragraph about the peculiarity of his nipples. I'll happily be quoted on future editions of this book as follows: "Most in-depth nipple description I've ever read." I never felt as if I knew the type of book I was reading. The magical realism seemed to peak around every corner of the narrative early on, only to give way to a murder mystery, then a series of character studies, and so on. Instead of being disorienting, the book’s strangeness is oddly compelling, and I was spirited on to the next chapter if only to try and unravel the increasingly tangled web that Jääskeläainen weaves. I feel like I need a course to sort out the hidden meaning behind everything in The Rabbit Back Literature Society. I also feel oddly satisfied by the whole experience. I enjoyed it, but I don’t think that everyone will. Murakami fans will definitely find a lot to like, but so will people who don’t like Murakami. This is a novel of contradictions, and it requires you to question all that goes on between its pages. Is it madness, magic, murder, or a mix of all of those and more? You know, I think you’ve just got to read it to know what’s what.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Bettie

    Description: Only nine people have ever been chosen by renowned children’s author Laura White to join “The Rabbit Back Literature Society,” an elite group of writers in the small town of Rabbit Back. Now a tenth member has been selected: Ella, a young literature teacher. Soon Ella discovers that the Society is not what it seems. What is its mysterious ritual known as “The Game”? What explains the strange disappearance that occurs at Laura White’s winter party? Why are the words inside books sta Description: Only nine people have ever been chosen by renowned children’s author Laura White to join “The Rabbit Back Literature Society,” an elite group of writers in the small town of Rabbit Back. Now a tenth member has been selected: Ella, a young literature teacher. Soon Ella discovers that the Society is not what it seems. What is its mysterious ritual known as “The Game”? What explains the strange disappearance that occurs at Laura White’s winter party? Why are the words inside books starting to rearrange themselves? Was there once another tenth member, before her? Slowly, as Ella explores the Society and its history, disturbing secrets that had been buried start to come to light... Opening: The reader was at first surprised, then shocked, as the criminal Raskolnikov was abruptly slain in the middle of the street, right before her eyes. What, THE Raskolnikov? *gasp* From the cover to the premise I was coloured intrigued so I read on... ...through the indoor snow, and soon arrived at a place that reminded me of a line in The Gruffalo's Child: Aha! Oho! A trail in the snow! Whose is this track and where does it go? A corking story, full of chill and just a couple of flaws that are easy to overlook. Packs of dogs add menace to this dark fairytale

  7. 4 out of 5

    Bob/Sally

    Books are strange and wonderful things. On the surface, they are nothing more than tiny stacks of aging pages, each defaced by a perplexing pattern of black marks. Hold them the right way, however, and those black marks not only begin to take on meaning, but reveal entire worlds that cannot physically exist between pages. What's more, while the black marks themselves are fixed, their structure is fluid, revealing a new, subtly different world for each and every reader. It really is a sort of magi Books are strange and wonderful things. On the surface, they are nothing more than tiny stacks of aging pages, each defaced by a perplexing pattern of black marks. Hold them the right way, however, and those black marks not only begin to take on meaning, but reveal entire worlds that cannot physically exist between pages. What's more, while the black marks themselves are fixed, their structure is fluid, revealing a new, subtly different world for each and every reader. It really is a sort of magic, and that's what Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen has attempted to capture with The Rabbit Back Literature Society. This is a story about stories . . . about experiences . . . and about the memories that connect them. On the surface, it appears to be nothing more than a quirky little mystery, prompted by the disappearance of a beloved author. Look a little deeper, however, and it soon reveals itself to be a story about the people behind the stories, and a story about where the stories come from. It's a story which is almost solely concerned with spilling the truth behind those stories, the reality behind those memories, but one which spills no truths of its own, leaving the reader to decide what the stories mean. While I think the story could have been a bit tighter, and I found the premise of 'The Game' a bit artificial, I can't deny that the story hooked me early on, and kept me reading right through to the end. What happened to Laura White? What's up with the 'plague' of altered library books? Who was the mysterious tenth member? What's with all the mythological statues? Some mysteries are solved outright, while other solutions are merely hinted at, but it all makes for a satisfying read. In terms of characters, Ella is a bit cold and distant to serve as a truly engaging narrator, but her distance does serve its purpose. As for Martti, Ingrid, Aura, and the other Society members, their eccentricities are their personalities, and even if they're really just pieces of a human jigsaw puzzle, it's thoroughly entertaining to see how those pieces fit together. I didn't necessarily buy some of the relationships, particularly that of Ella and Martti, but that discomfort of a part of the overall story experience. As for Laura White herself, she's both the most enigmatic and most fascinating character in the whole tale, and the more we learn about her past, the more we almost want her to remain missing . . . lest her return somehow damage the memories we've created on her behalf. Go into The Rabbit Back Literature Society looking for a straightforward bit of narrative prose, and you're likely to be disappointed. Prepare yourself instead for a multi-layered character study, and a sort of imaginative treatise on the act of writing (and remembering), and you'll find a lot to appreciate here. It's quirky and odd, as likely to make you raise your eyebrows as curl your lips, but it really does work. The ending is just about perfect, tying up some loose ends I was sure had been forgotten, but never forgetting that, for each reader, it must end just a little bit differently. Originally reviewed at Beauty in Ruins

  8. 4 out of 5

    Mike

    I really enjoyed this book, but it definitely helped talking out some of the themes with my book club. Ostensibly this book is about the strange occurrences that surround a prestigious group of writers in Scandinavia, The Rabbit Back Literature Society is an exploration of the nature of memory and how it influences identity and relationships. The story of this book follows and explores the history of The Rabbit Back Literature Society and its secretive founder, the beloved children's book writer I really enjoyed this book, but it definitely helped talking out some of the themes with my book club. Ostensibly this book is about the strange occurrences that surround a prestigious group of writers in Scandinavia, The Rabbit Back Literature Society is an exploration of the nature of memory and how it influences identity and relationships. The story of this book follows and explores the history of The Rabbit Back Literature Society and its secretive founder, the beloved children's book writer Laura White. Through this narrative we see how the various writers were influenced by the events of their past and how the memory of those events influence the present For instance, Ella Milana's, one of the main characters, father is in decline due to Alzheimers disease. As he lost more and more of his memories he became less and less the person his daughter had grown up with a loved. Where once he was a great runner, he had been reduced to an old man puttering around in a garden, preferring to spend time in the garden, oblivious to his surroundings. When he finally passes he does not feel that she has lost her father because he had been gone for so long already. The book also explores the nature of the writers' memories through something called The Game. In The Game, writers can accost each other and force them to "spill" about anything and they must be absolutely honest about it, no matter how private. "You see, The Game doesn't produce stories, it produces material for stories. that happens when you break open stories and let their unformed essence spill out. that's what The Game is for. Everybody has valuable material inside them that The Game can help draw out." Ella, the first new member in decades, uses this to ferret out the murky history of the society that she is researching. It also clearly serves as a method to explore how people remember their past and how it influences their present identity. Of course the story itself is also pretty neat. There is some sort magical goings on: suggestions of faery creatures, spontaneously rearranging books, disappearing authors. The mystery Ella tries to uncover is also fascinating and is a dark secret at the heart of the society. The path to get there winds through many pasts and shows just how fickle and unreliable memory is. She pounded on her memory like a coffee machine on the blink, but her past returned only in small fragments. If all of her remembered images from birth to confirmation were laid end to end, they would have formed at most a short film of ten minutes, grainy, fuzzy, and confused. This book was also beautifully written. The prose was excellent and the characters vibrant. Here are a few of the passages I really enjoyed: "Martti, if you were any less interested in what was happening around you, you'd be indistinguishable from a leather sofa." ~~~ She'd wanted to do literary-historical research that might bring to light a few small skeletons - secret relationships, homosexuality, that sort of thing. Pleasant little scandals. Murder victims weren't the sort of thing she'd been hoping to dig up. ~~~ I don't remember anymore exactly what he wrote, but when I heard him read hi stories out loud in Laura's reading room I remember thinking, "Fuck, thanks a lot, guess I'll give up writing now. ~~~ The story was very engaging, the mystery was intriguing, and the pages just kept turning. A word of warning though: the end is a bit ambiguous and the epilogue is really the last chapter of the story and not a traditional epilogue. All in all though I really enjoyed reading this book which was very much out of my usual track of genres.

  9. 5 out of 5

    zxvasdf

    A mythological mapping of the craft, of writerly aspirations and all associated neuroses, The Rabbit Back Literature Society is the writer’s novel, distilled and bottled into a lovely winter’s night mystery tale. It is a windblown snowstorm of tangents, disturbing dreams, and frightening forays into the psyche sweeping up into drifts of mystique, the answers to which are rewarded the prudent reader. There’s The Game, a source of inspiration and the drain of friendship among The Rabbit Back Lite A mythological mapping of the craft, of writerly aspirations and all associated neuroses, The Rabbit Back Literature Society is the writer’s novel, distilled and bottled into a lovely winter’s night mystery tale. It is a windblown snowstorm of tangents, disturbing dreams, and frightening forays into the psyche sweeping up into drifts of mystique, the answers to which are rewarded the prudent reader. There’s The Game, a source of inspiration and the drain of friendship among The Rabbit Back Literature Society. The Game equips its combatants with the bone saws of the psyche and the scalpel of dreams; the author derives inspiration from any source, extracts it with extreme prejudice. The Game is one of the more interesting aspects of this Society, almost as interesting as the obfuscated history that flickers like fish under a sheet of ice. This we find Ella chipping at this ice with the pick that is The Game, and are we sure it is only fish we'll find under there? You find Finnish mythology springing up like toadstools along with gnomes and trolls. You have professional mythology mappers visiting your home for an extended period of time and walking out with a checklist of supernatural beasts, some positive, some simply horrendous. There is talk of water spirits whisking children at small puddles into unfathomable depths. There is magic seeping from the cracks of the Rabbit Back Literature Society, as Ella, ever the methodical researcher, pries them open. There are recurring themes, strange tidbits of information that become relevant later in the narrative, like echoes that, instead of fading away, reassert themselves. You’re invited to sleuth on an unconscious level and if you didn’t catch it earlier, it becomes apparent later on. I find this self-referential nature makes a novel more pleasurable to read. The Rabbit Back Literature Society begins with an unexpected snowstorm and ends with a pack of howling dogs. In between are the obsessions and preoccupations, all the crazy little things that are the guts and blood of a writer, and magic, plenty of magic hiding in intimations of humanity.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Stefani Sloma

    You can read this review and more on my blog, Caught Read Handed. A confusing but sometimes enchanting story that’ll leave you lost in the end, The Rabbit Back Literature Society is good but not great. NOTE: I was provided with an e-ARC of this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to Thomas Dunne Books for letting me read this. What first drew me to this book was that absolutely gorgeous cover. Obviously. Then my friend Jo over at Drifting Pages bought it. Then I saw it on You can read this review and more on my blog, Caught Read Handed. A confusing but sometimes enchanting story that’ll leave you lost in the end, The Rabbit Back Literature Society is good but not great. NOTE: I was provided with an e-ARC of this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to Thomas Dunne Books for letting me read this. What first drew me to this book was that absolutely gorgeous cover. Obviously. Then my friend Jo over at Drifting Pages bought it. Then I saw it on Netgalley and just had to read it. It has such an interesting concept. The Rabbit Back Literature Society was…good. Not great, but good. It’s well-written for the most part. The magical realism was really cool but also very strange, which I should have expected. However, it didn’t do anything. It didn’t go anywhere, which was really disappointing. The thing that really disappointed me was the “mystery”. I like when books don’t answer all of your questions, leave you to figure out what you think happened. But I like when they answer SOME of them. One, even. There was little to no resolution for what was the biggest mystery in the whole book – the disappearance of Laura White. We do get resolution for one of the other mysteries, and I thought it was sweet and simple and wonderful, but we had NONE for the main mystery. It felt a little like I’d wasted my time. The violence was also strange. I’m not sure if this is in part due to the fact that it’s been translated, but the authors of the society play “The Game” in which they can invoke a rule that allows them to hurt the other to get them to tell the truth. It was weird. There’s also one scene (only a few pages) that talks about an act of sexual violence that was seriously disturbing. I had to put the book down for a while. I enjoyed the mysticism and magical realism, and most of the writing was interesting enough to keep me going. But feeling like you’ve part of the point when you finish is not something I like. Not bad but not great either. The bottom line: I never really figured out what was happening or why I was reading about it. I will say that the book will push you violently out of your comfort zone, which I appreciated, and the magical realism was interesting and enchanting. I haven’t said much about the plot because 1. I’m not sure what the point was, and 2. I’m not sure there was supposed to be a point. If you like magical realism and translation, read this. But if you need things to be wrapped up, you’ll go insane at the end. Basically, read The Rabbit Back Literature Society at your own risk. Rating: 6 – good, but not great

  11. 4 out of 5

    Ruth

    I stopped on the first page. The second paragraph, in its entirety, reads: The reader's name was Ella Amanda Milana. She was twenty-six years old and the possessor of a pair of beautifully curving lips and a pair of defective ovaries, among other parts. There are so many things wrong with that paragraph that I'm not even going to list them. Needless.to say, if you have the same visceral reaction to what you just read as I did, this is not the book for you. I stopped on the first page. The second paragraph, in its entirety, reads: The reader's name was Ella Amanda Milana. She was twenty-six years old and the possessor of a pair of beautifully curving lips and a pair of defective ovaries, among other parts. There are so many things wrong with that paragraph that I'm not even going to list them. Needless.to say, if you have the same visceral reaction to what you just read as I did, this is not the book for you.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Antonomasia

    I've said at least twice, in writing, that I wouldn't read this book because it sounds too twee. And it is twee, but not excruciatingly so. Maybe this is the same part of me talking that actually rather liked 500 Days of Summer in the cinema. The description here isn't as sickly-oversweet as in Catherynne M. Valente's Fairyland. And life is not exactly perfect: as the story opens, the protagonist's father has Alzheimers in his 50s. But the book is twee in that even when something unpleasant is m I've said at least twice, in writing, that I wouldn't read this book because it sounds too twee. And it is twee, but not excruciatingly so. Maybe this is the same part of me talking that actually rather liked 500 Days of Summer in the cinema. The description here isn't as sickly-oversweet as in Catherynne M. Valente's Fairyland. And life is not exactly perfect: as the story opens, the protagonist's father has Alzheimers in his 50s. But the book is twee in that even when something unpleasant is mentioned, the description is not emotionally raw (sometimes you need that for a change, instead of being continually wrenched) and we get a lot of reversion to a child[like] perspective: for instance, as Ella drives her parents' car Her place in this car with these people was on the back seat on the right. Not 'was once' (which would have given a nice tingle of nostalgia, especially if with some cultural detail of twenty years ago) - this instead is a 26 year old still living within the child-self, playing teacher in a small town where mythological decorations are everywhere, and amazingly most locals like them and they're given frequently as gifts, rather than being exasperating tourist tat and/or a job. Their preponderance is thanks to supernatural murmurings in the vicinity, plus resident world-famous children's author Laura White - or Laura Lumikko in the original. Another great way for a translated book to get on the wrong side of me. Anglicise the bloody names why? Provide footnotes if the meanings are important, please (and they weren't very.) Leaving the names of the mythological beings in Finnish, rather than saying 'gnomes', 'nixies', etc, would have also improved the sense of place - though I think I'm part of a different translated fiction market from the one this book's aimed at. Anyway, Lumikko's creations are analogous to Moomins in their place in Finnish and world culture, though she's a completely different personality from Tove Jansson. Martti, meanwhile, has wandered in from another book, something by a middling imitator of Updike, Roth and Amis. The rest of The Rabbit Back Literature Society is recognisable as subcultural genre twee + dark. (A lot of twee things for adults are very dark in places, but it tends to surprise people, because it rarely gels as well as it does in, say, Edward Gorey. Although the obliqueness and strangeness of its not gelling is also part of the attraction.) Martti is fully - and gigantically - embodied; one hears what it feels like to be him, (I imagined him as a hugely obese version of Jääskeläinen) whilst everyone else is a sketch, seen from the outside; the heroine, Ella, sees herself more often than not from the outside too. I loved reading a book which didn't make me feel anything much, it was just a story. (Not necessarily a common reaction to this novel - some have found it disturbing.) Fiction can be exhausting to me because it nearly always has emotional resonance, and/or I end up identifying with someone. (A problem with crime fiction - I mean it to be low-effort reading, but usually end up identifying with some grumpy detective). And non-fiction there's just too bloody much I want to note and discuss. Here, I didn't identify with anyone, no-one was so annoying I couldn't put up with them for a short while (though wouldn't be in a hurry to read about them again) and nothing, even the most unpleasant bits, was written in a way that really got under my skin. Perhaps also because characters accept a lot of weird stuff, and to process it they usually sleep rather than think and angst about it. I would briefly think such and such was an unusual reaction; or that it was perceptive to show people wanting to ignore each other after they'd had to break so many boundaries with not-wholly voluntary personal revelations; or a lot of readers wouldn't like that bit. But that was it, nothing wrenching my emotions all over the place. Hang on, this is what reading used to feel like when I was a kid; reading that actually feels like leisure, escapism, almost like watching sport when I'm not rooting for anyone particular; it didn't always used to be emotional labour. N.B. If you've read the book and aren't sure you've worked out the whole mystery, there's a post on the author's blog that will help.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Meredith

    I really enjoyed this book! The story was engrossing and was a fast read. And dare I say it? I enjoyed a book with magical realism! Alright, I bumped it up to 5 stars! It's now December and I've been thinking about this book since I read it in March! I also chose it as my favorite Eclectic Readers book of 2016, so it deserves the bump up to 5 stars! I really enjoyed this book! The story was engrossing and was a fast read. And dare I say it? I enjoyed a book with magical realism! Alright, I bumped it up to 5 stars! It's now December and I've been thinking about this book since I read it in March! I also chose it as my favorite Eclectic Readers book of 2016, so it deserves the bump up to 5 stars!

  14. 5 out of 5

    Caro the Helmet Lady

    I really tried, but this book is just not for me I guess. I realized I just don't want to get involved with all these people. Yes, the premise does seem interesting and intriguing but it all just didn't click with me. And to all that what's with those weird translator's ideas. DNF. I really tried, but this book is just not for me I guess. I realized I just don't want to get involved with all these people. Yes, the premise does seem interesting and intriguing but it all just didn't click with me. And to all that what's with those weird translator's ideas. DNF.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Sifra (brilliant bookshelf)

    Read this review at Brilliant Bookshelf Sometimes when you read a good book, it's impossible to write a review about it. The Rabbit Back Literature Society is like that. I really enjoyed it, but I can't seem to pinpoint exactly what it is I liked so much. For the sake of my blog, I still tried to get my thoughts on paper (or screen). The thing that captured my interest most was the strikingly different balance of a realistic world and the extraordinary, magical things that happen in it. Rabbit Bac Read this review at Brilliant Bookshelf Sometimes when you read a good book, it's impossible to write a review about it. The Rabbit Back Literature Society is like that. I really enjoyed it, but I can't seem to pinpoint exactly what it is I liked so much. For the sake of my blog, I still tried to get my thoughts on paper (or screen). The thing that captured my interest most was the strikingly different balance of a realistic world and the extraordinary, magical things that happen in it. Rabbit Back is like any other town where people have jobs and families, hopes and dreams like the average citizen. The introduction of Rabbit Back Literature Society that mentors gifted young writers is not so unusual either if you think about it. However, details like the strange disappearance of the famous author, the gnomes and ghosts haunting backyards, the spreading book virus etc. made an ordinary world extraordinary. I loved the peculiar little details because each and every single one of them provided a mystery that I wanted to figure out. It got me very invested in the story. Jääskeläinen is a very good writer. Not only is the plot very original (which is a real blessing nowadays), the language was beautifully constructed. I'm not sure if it's characteristic of Finnish/Scandinavian writers in general, but I got a different vibe from her book than I did with any other European literature, which was very refreshing. The strange thing about the ending is that it's both good and bad. I liked it because the revelation about the boy put the entire story into a completely different perspective. It was a nice twist and somehow very fitting. At the same time though, that was the only appealing thing about the ending. I like a bit of an open ending, but this was just unsatisfying and left too many questions unanswered. Why were the dogs there, who was the phantom, where did the book virus come from, where is Laura White? I had hoped that at least some of the mysteries that dominate the plot would be solved, but I was disappointed. Apart from that one fault though, I loved The Rabbit Back Literature Society. It's different and weird but also really interesting. If you don't go in it expecting a lot, and just go with the flow, you'll probably enjoy it. I for one do hope some of Jääskeläinen's other books will be translated into English or Dutch.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Oriana

    Says one of the brilliant booksellers at Word Bookstore: A surrealist mystery that involves an exclusive literary society, their secret -- possibly murderous -- past, a famous disappearance, and a disease that causes the words in books to morph, scatter, change? Yeah, it's got a lot going on; but I could not stop reading and exploring the bizarre world of Rabbit Back. If you enjoy the mythic and fantastical, and don't mind an ending with a few loose ends, I highly recommend you pick this one up. Says one of the brilliant booksellers at Word Bookstore: A surrealist mystery that involves an exclusive literary society, their secret -- possibly murderous -- past, a famous disappearance, and a disease that causes the words in books to morph, scatter, change? Yeah, it's got a lot going on; but I could not stop reading and exploring the bizarre world of Rabbit Back. If you enjoy the mythic and fantastical, and don't mind an ending with a few loose ends, I highly recommend you pick this one up.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Kelly Gunderman

    I received a free copy of this book from the publisher through the Goodreads First Reads giveaway. I don't know what took me so long to start reading this book. I've had it for a few weeks, but for some reason, I couldn't pick it up and start it. Now that I've finished it, I could smack myself for not reading it sooner. This book is fantastic. I know I say that books are pretty good all the time. But something about this book (which made it good enough to land on my "favorites" shelf, just struck I received a free copy of this book from the publisher through the Goodreads First Reads giveaway. I don't know what took me so long to start reading this book. I've had it for a few weeks, but for some reason, I couldn't pick it up and start it. Now that I've finished it, I could smack myself for not reading it sooner. This book is fantastic. I know I say that books are pretty good all the time. But something about this book (which made it good enough to land on my "favorites" shelf, just struck me as amazing. The plot is great. Ella, a young woman living in Rabbit Back, is invited to join the great author Laura White's Rabbit Back Literature Society. The other members, having been members since they were children, and Laura White, have a fancy party to get to know Ella and welcome her into the society. And then Laura White disappears in a really odd way. The rest of the novel has Ella playing "The Game" which gets quite interesting (I won't reveal anything about it, because I don't want to ruin it for anyone), and trying to uncover the secrets surrounding Laura White's disappearance, and the fact that there was, indeed, a former tenth member of the Rabbit Back Literature Society. The book is light and playful, and it made me laugh in quite a few spots. Sure, some of the things in this book are not really resolved at the end. But if you really sit down and think about it, you can come up with some answers on your own (which is a great thing if you like to really think about what you're reading, like I do). The story flows smoothly and isn't rushed at all, like I thought it would be since the end kind of came on a little more abruptly than I thought it would. But everything worked itself out pretty well. I don't usually like mysteries, which is why I hesitated to read this book. However, it didn't really seem like a mystery to me. It was a whole bunch of fantastic on 345 pages.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Nicky

    There’s some interesting elements to this book: the mysterious book viruses, which changes the plots and corrupts the narratives of various books in the Rabbit Back library; the disappearance of Laura White; the mystery of the original tenth member of the society. But mostly it felt unfocused, because there’s a lot going on: the society, the game they play, their pasts, the disappearance, the main character’s experiences with her family… And honestly, the more I read, the more I felt like I was r There’s some interesting elements to this book: the mysterious book viruses, which changes the plots and corrupts the narratives of various books in the Rabbit Back library; the disappearance of Laura White; the mystery of the original tenth member of the society. But mostly it felt unfocused, because there’s a lot going on: the society, the game they play, their pasts, the disappearance, the main character’s experiences with her family… And honestly, the more I read, the more I felt like I was reading the fantasies of your stereotypical dirty old man. I felt like he undressed all the characters in his mind, in more ways than one, and took delight in displaying that to the reader. It felt prurient, and I was grossed out by some of the revelations. Also, I don’t think people honestly walk around being so conscious of their own nicely shaped lips in the way that his main character does. The resolutions to the mysteries — the ones we actually get, since there isn’t a resolution to Laura White’s disappearance, for instance — are kind of anti-climatic. I did keep reading, because I wanted to know how it would all come together, but… I kind of regret bothering. It just never comes to anything. There’s some clever writing and some intriguing ideas, but it’s all surface. Reviewed for The Bibliophibian.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Janet

    A very strange and unusual book, I did enjoy it but I'm still a bit nonplussed about what it was supposed to be about! A very strange and unusual book, I did enjoy it but I'm still a bit nonplussed about what it was supposed to be about!

  20. 4 out of 5

    Gerhard

    I loved the darkness of this novel. It presents terrors and wonders in a matter-of-fact way, as being contingent on reality like traffic jams or bad weather. The central mystery – the disappearance of the celebrated child author Laura White– is neither resolved nor explained by the end (indeed, it is replaced by the larger mystery of her near-death experience as a child when she fell through the ice in a lake). In a novel full of such mysteries, it begins with Ella discovering that certain books I loved the darkness of this novel. It presents terrors and wonders in a matter-of-fact way, as being contingent on reality like traffic jams or bad weather. The central mystery – the disappearance of the celebrated child author Laura White– is neither resolved nor explained by the end (indeed, it is replaced by the larger mystery of her near-death experience as a child when she fell through the ice in a lake). In a novel full of such mysteries, it begins with Ella discovering that certain books at the local library have been afflicted with a mysterious condition whereby plot elements are changed. (Rabbit Back is the name of the town). This is later referred to as a ‘virus’ or ‘bacteria’, possibly stemming from a rare Laura White first edition that the librarian keeps under lock-and-key in the library. The reader has barely gotten to terms with this initial weirdness – I felt a strong urge to call upon the literary detection services of Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next – when the novel truly begins, as it were, with Ella’s own introduction to the Rabbit Back Literature Society. Here the novel takes a much darker, and decidedly more adult, turn. The Society’s members were hand-picked by Laura White as children and nurtured into literary prodigies themselves. Ella is rather overwhelmed to be chosen as the missing tenth member at the same function where Laura White disappears (in a blistering cloud of snow that miraculously appears indoors). This feeling is quickly replaced by curiosity, and Ella begins a quest to unravel the origins of the Society and what makes it tick. Naturally (because this is a thriller), the original tenth member died under mysterious circumstances while still a child (a child whom everyone else envied and resented for his overflowing genius). Ella’s quest quickly brings her to The Game, a version of truth-or-dare whereby Society members challenge each other to reveal their deepest and darkest secrets and desires. The process of doing this is called ‘Spilling’; the terms and conditions of a challenge are bound by the Society’s own ironclad rule book ... including Rule 21, which permits members to use violence or force on each other. It is in this way that the writers of the Society find fresh material for their own books and stories. By the time Ella arrives on the scene, innocent and unaware, they are all longing for fresh blood. Literally. I hope I am not making this sound like a vampire novel, because it is not. It is, but it is also much else besides. Ella’s Challenge of Marrti Winter leads to a complicated erotic entanglement. In a masterful counter-challenge, Martti compels Ella to describe her body when she looks at herself naked in a mirror: the point is to convey her vulnerability and phobia of her own flesh. Martti himself has long succumbed to a food fetish that has left him grossly overweight and house-bound. Their journey of sexual (re)discovery, trying to fit their very different bodies together, is both tender and hilarious. There have been many books about writing and writers, but this has to be one of the strangest I have ever read. There is an undercurrent here of writing itself as a harmful or unhealthy activity, with authors preying on people’s weaknesses. When Ella joins the society, all its members have long since retreated into their own private wars and petty squabbles. The irony is that they are totally oblivious to the glimpse of magic that attracts Ella to the Society in the first place. I particularly liked the ending, which is a kind of resolution on one level, but it is also quite unexpectedly sad. Jääskeläinen has written a near-perfect book for readers.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Amanda

    2015: Didn't realise this would have elements of magical realism - shame on me as Jaaskelainen is a well known fantasy and sci-fi author in Finland. I loved this so much. It had many of the elements that make a book extra special for me: the winter landscape, writers/writing/books, folklore.... The core plot in this is a mystery: what is the Rabbit Back Literature Society? From there, more mysteries become apparent, concerning the founder of the Society, author Laura White, the nature of The Game, 2015: Didn't realise this would have elements of magical realism - shame on me as Jaaskelainen is a well known fantasy and sci-fi author in Finland. I loved this so much. It had many of the elements that make a book extra special for me: the winter landscape, writers/writing/books, folklore.... The core plot in this is a mystery: what is the Rabbit Back Literature Society? From there, more mysteries become apparent, concerning the founder of the Society, author Laura White, the nature of The Game, supposedly a tool for the Society's writers, and the writers themselves. But amongst those main plotlines, Jaaskelainen tackles topics like Alzheimer's, anticipatory grief, creative inspiration, literary value, infertility and the many faces of human nature. Though a mystery is at the heart of the novel, it reads more like a character examination, delving into the lives of the members of the Society and those around them. They are all weird, complex people, and the reader finds out just how much so whilst reading this novel. 2020, DNF at 40%: I love this book when I first read it in 2015. Reading it now, five years later, I find the writing style overly quirky to the point of pretentiousness. I also find all of the characters unlikable and yet uninteresting at the same time. The main plot revolves on a mystery that is never fully introduced, but just continues moving forward seemingly without and. Reading this book has made me want to avoid reading. I decided to not finish it so I could avoid a reading slump. Just goes to show that readers really do change over time.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Emma

    I am not going to lie, I am not 100 percent sure what I think of this one. I enjoyed it but at the same time it was just a bit meh. To start off with, I would really like to say how much I do enjoy the flare that the Scandinavian countries put into their work. It is extremely different from the books I am used to reading and undoubtedly interesting. However, this story did suffer from a few things. While the story was there and I was enjoying it, it very much felt like the real story was hidden I am not going to lie, I am not 100 percent sure what I think of this one. I enjoyed it but at the same time it was just a bit meh. To start off with, I would really like to say how much I do enjoy the flare that the Scandinavian countries put into their work. It is extremely different from the books I am used to reading and undoubtedly interesting. However, this story did suffer from a few things. While the story was there and I was enjoying it, it very much felt like the real story was hidden from view and that you were never going to find out what it was. I felt like some of it was lazy writing. The Game was so stupid. Not the concept of it, I can see how that would fit in with a group of writers who are suffering from various problems but the fallout of the game. Really? Sleep for seven days because you admitted some things that you didn't want to admit? Obviously after the inclusion of the drug it became more believable. (view spoiler)[I really like the ending of the story of Oskar. I thought it fit quite well and left a nice air of mystery. I will always wonder if the phantom was him, and I do believe it was. If he was fixated on the notebook in life through his autism, then in a book of magical realism it makes sense that he would be fixated on it in death. (hide spoiler)]

  23. 4 out of 5

    Roxana Chirilă

    In the town of Rabbit Back, strange things are happening. People have odd dreams that they seem to share. Books change their contents, the stories within them being rewritten at whim. A world-famous author of children's books, Laura White, once found nine children to tutor and turned them into great writers, and ever since then she's been looking for the tenth and last member of the "Rabbti Back Literature Society". Ella is a substitute teacher with beautiful lips, beautiful nipples and defective In the town of Rabbit Back, strange things are happening. People have odd dreams that they seem to share. Books change their contents, the stories within them being rewritten at whim. A world-famous author of children's books, Laura White, once found nine children to tutor and turned them into great writers, and ever since then she's been looking for the tenth and last member of the "Rabbti Back Literature Society". Ella is a substitute teacher with beautiful lips, beautiful nipples and defective ovaries who submits a story to the local newspaper and is discovered by Laura White, who invites her to join the Society. But, alas, on the evening when Ella's about to meet the authoress herself at a winter party, Laura White gets a terrible migraine and, just as she's descending the stairs of her house, a massive indoor snowstorm blows everything away and makes her vanish. This would be a WONDERFUL story, but "The Rabbit Back Literature Society" is written in a very odd style. It felt as if the Marvel Cinematic Universe were being produced and directed by artsy Eastern Europeans hellbent on winning the Golden Bear or some other artsy cinema prize. It's as if "The Age of Ultron" consisted mostly of Black Widow having soup with Bruce Banner an saying, "Look, I have nice lips, and great nipples, but do you know what? My ovaries? Not gonna make me any kids. I want to rip my flesh apart and look at what's there." And then they'd eat the rest of the soup and Natasha would stalk the other Avengers and pop up into their houses at night and ask them, in a civilized manner, what they did in the previous movie, you know, the movie that Marvel never made. And they'd have these disjointed stories about maybe a battle or something, and you'd wonder if Captain America killed one of the good guys or something. But he hasn't killed anyone. Then, at the end, Tony Stark would walk in and say, "Do you know what? Some weird alien thing infested JARVIS, but JARVIS beat it, so we're all good now. By the way, Natasha, your lips and nipples are super-nice." "But I have defective ovaries," Natasha'd say. And the movie would end. Wham, it's art! Anyway, I'm getting distracted. The point about "The Rabbit Back Literature Society" is that it seems to have a plot, but it's mostly odd. The focus is strange. You get the impression that it's about books changing their contents, but that's just a side thought. You get the impression it might be about paranormal creatures infesting a town, but... I'm not even sure. You get the impression it might be about Ella, her lips, her ovaries, and her troubles with the world, but aside from a couple of complaints that she'll never have kids and it's devastating, she seems entirely uninterested in either her lips or her childlessness, so never mind that. You get the impression it might be about a previous tenth member of the Society who might have gotten murdered, but... well, actually, that might be the plot, come to think of it. But by the time the mystery's partly set up, it's dismissed. Very little adds up, so I assume this book is meant to be very literary. Four stars for the premise and the summary, which would be cool. Dropped to three for the weird style and Ella reacting to the news that some people might want to murder her like so: "She was analyzing the situation she'd somehow ended up in. One possible definition of murder would be 'an illegal activity that causes its target to cease to exist'. One of the many murders committed annually was about to happen in Rabbit Back, and its target was Ella Milana." Plus the endless repetitions about her goddamned lips. Two stars for passages like, "Ella had secretly undressed in front of her mirror for years. She had flirted and done calisthenics and examined her appearance critically, admiringly, hornily." (Don't we all stare into the mirror hornily at ourselves?... /s) Or, about having had sex with a fat man five minutes previously, "She doesn't remember the act at all, except for a surreal general impression and an idea that formed in her mind at the final moment: she was a little crawfish swirling in the eddies of the sea, slamming herself again and again against something large and powerful." Yeah, I'll stick to two stars for this. The weird approach to sex/bodies and the feeling that I'd have been better off not reading this book weigh too heavily against everything else.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Nafiza

    A shout out to Lola M. Rogers who translated this book from Finnish and made it possible for it to be read in English. I love reading translated fiction as it gives me a chance to peek into cultures totally different from mine. Reading translated books lets me catch glimpses of the different kinds of people and societies populating this world. There’s something deliciously foreign and yet familiar about translated books. At least I thought so. With that introduction, let’s move on to the review o A shout out to Lola M. Rogers who translated this book from Finnish and made it possible for it to be read in English. I love reading translated fiction as it gives me a chance to peek into cultures totally different from mine. Reading translated books lets me catch glimpses of the different kinds of people and societies populating this world. There’s something deliciously foreign and yet familiar about translated books. At least I thought so. With that introduction, let’s move on to the review of this strange and wonderful book. The Rabbit Back Literature Society focuses on Ella Milana who is a teacher at a high school when we first meet her. Her life hasn’t exactly spun out as she had hope it would. First, the doctor had told her that her ovaries were defective which meant she couldn’t ever have children, and then she and her fiance split due to the aforementioned ovaries. At least, Ella Milana consoles herself, she does have really beautiful lips that curve just so. Rabbit Back is Ella’s hometown where her parents still live. When in class she comes across a book, Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment, and finds out that the plot is distinctly changed, she takes herself off to the town’s library. There, she meets Ingrid Katz, a librarian, an author, and a member of the prestigious Rabbit Back Literature Society. This society has nine members who are all authors of varying fame. There one spot remaining empty in the society which is mentored by the world famous Laura White who has written Creatureville, a book series that is famous worldwide. Things happen, Ella’s short story gets printed in the local newspaper and comes to Laura White’s attention who, taken with Ella’s story, invites her to be the tenth and last member of the literature society. But before Ella can be formally introduced to Laura, there is an incident and Laura disappears leaving Ella with questions and the newfound mystery of the previous tenth member. This book is remarkably easy to read. Pages stretch into chapters until you have read a hundred pages in one sitting. I was charmed by the cadence of the language, the flow of it. Being both an aspiring writing and an academic, I found this novel to have a wealth of bits and things to ponder and analyze. First, I must applaud a male author for writing a woman who feels real and not a collection and embodiment of someone else’s fantasies. This is rarer than it seems so bear with me. Ella’s grief about not being able to have children is not explicit but as a reader, I was able to appreciate the small moments scattered here and there when she’d console herself for the superior curve of her lips or the colour of nipples that some lover had long admired. Interesting,too, how the book has different discussions about motherhood interspersed in a seemingly careless way throughout the narrative. However, the book, at its heart, delves into the art of writing and maintains how savage the entire venture is. Writing is laying yourself bare (sometimes literally) to the world and your readers. It is an excavation into the deepest parts of your soul just so you can get new material. Writing is borrowing, begging and sometimes boldly stealing new material from people you know and from others you don’t. It is a constant struggle with debilitating insecurity. It is giving too much of yourself to a character and then realizing you have an unstable identity. Ella’s interactions with the other nine members of the Rabbit Back Literature Society is illuminating. Her efforts to gather information about the previous tenth member creates a mystery that needs to be solved but Ella warns the reader that being a detective is not appealing to her at all. Jaaskelainen weaves elements of fantasy while keeping a strong hold on reality and asks questions about human nature and the art of storytelling. The book makes surprising twists and turns and the ending is that last bit of hard candy that lingers for a while in your mouth getting sweeter every time you swallow until it is finally gone. I enjoyed The Rabbit Back Literature Society immensely and recommend it to everyone who enjoys good literature.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Erin

    ARC for review - I won this through the FirstReads program and I can honestly say that, based on the description of the book, I never wanted to win one of these so badly and I was so excited to get lucky. This will be next up. OK, first, here's why I was dying to read this book....."Twin Peaks meets the Brothers Grimm" (The Telegraph UK), "Mixes the small-town surrealism of Twin Peaks with the clandestine society of Donna Tartt's The Secret History" (The List), "Unnerving, enigmatic....hints of ARC for review - I won this through the FirstReads program and I can honestly say that, based on the description of the book, I never wanted to win one of these so badly and I was so excited to get lucky. This will be next up. OK, first, here's why I was dying to read this book....."Twin Peaks meets the Brothers Grimm" (The Telegraph UK), "Mixes the small-town surrealism of Twin Peaks with the clandestine society of Donna Tartt's The Secret History" (The List), "Unnerving, enigmatic....hints of Let the Right One In and Haruki Murakami's elliptical early science fiction novels flavor a creepy tale about mutating books, buried secrets and ghostly encounters." (Financial Times). The Secret History mixed with Twin Peaks in a "creepy" tale about a literary society? Is this book part of my dream library of books where we find that Maud Hart Lovelace secretly wrote three additional Betsy-Tacy books and Dennis Hensley writes a new Screening Party every few years? I'm sorry to say, the answer is no (but if someone can write a book worthy of the praise given this one I would gladly pay extra to read it). Let me make clear, this is not a BAD book - it's well-written and shows promise, but more a case of me not being the right reader for it -- this is pure magical realism, which, unless it's Murakami or Marquez doesn't usually work for me....it has to be airtight and this one just wasn't. However, if magical realism is your favorite genre you'll likely enjoy this much more than I did. The premise - there's a famous Finnish literary society, handpicked by children's author Laura White. It currently has nine members, and suddenly Ella is chosen as the tenth, the first new one in decades. The authors play a "Game" with each other (which is much less interesting than it sounds) and both the Society and Laura White have many secrets. But too many characters do too many odd things and some interesting parts are touched on (the mutating books) but don't really go anywhere. Again, if you are a big fan of magical realism you'll likely enjoy. 3.5, rounded up.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Claire Huston

    Lindsay at bookboodle gave me this book. She didn’t enjoy it that much because it was incredibly weird (you can read her review here). Knowing all the fantasy fiction I enjoy, she thought I might get on with the book a bit better than her:-) So, did I love it? Not really. One of the quotes on the front cover says “unnerving, enigmatic”: I suspect these are reviewer euphemisms for “muddled” and “baffling”. And this is a shame. Certain elements of the story are intriguing and the whole thing is wel Lindsay at bookboodle gave me this book. She didn’t enjoy it that much because it was incredibly weird (you can read her review here). Knowing all the fantasy fiction I enjoy, she thought I might get on with the book a bit better than her:-) So, did I love it? Not really. One of the quotes on the front cover says “unnerving, enigmatic”: I suspect these are reviewer euphemisms for “muddled” and “baffling”. And this is a shame. Certain elements of the story are intriguing and the whole thing is well-written. But, on the whole, it’s a confusing hodge-podge which comes to no conclusions. As I read, I keep feeling as if I’d find all the answers just over the page… but no. In fact, the blurb poses four intriguing questions; the book only answers two. And, to be honest, “The Game” isn’t really a mysterious ritual. It’s just daft. None of the characters are particularly likeable, although some of them make up for that by being entertainingly loopy. The Literature Society had the potential to be a fascinating treasure trove of buried secrets. Unfortunately it all gets muddled with suggestions of more supernatural goings-on which didn’t enhance the story. Another disappointment. The idea of books quietly re-writing themselves due to some sort of “book plague” is great and could have been the starting point for a strong plot line but nothing really comes of it. I don’t really get on with magic realism. But in this book, the magic elements weren’t the problem, it was that they weren’t fully developed. The ending was also unsatisfying. One big mystery is wrapped up, but others remain. The author admits that he wanted to leave things open to interpretation and was opaque on purpose. He’s gone so far as to write a blog post full of hints if you want to understand a bit more what the heck you’ve just read. I read it and it did help. But should you really need some sort of key to understand a book?! Overall: if you enjoy being baffled by your books and don’t mind a bundle of well-written crazy, read this.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Jessica Jeffers

    I was really excited to read this because it sounded kind of like an awesome combination of The Shadow of the Wind, The Thursday Next series, The Club Dumas, and Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore. A creepy mystery set in the world of a secretive literary society? And that beautiful cover?? Sign me up. I don't know if my expectations were too high or I was missing the point, but this book was really very middle of the road for me. It was ultimately a struggle to get through. Ella gets invited to jo I was really excited to read this because it sounded kind of like an awesome combination of The Shadow of the Wind, The Thursday Next series, The Club Dumas, and Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore. A creepy mystery set in the world of a secretive literary society? And that beautiful cover?? Sign me up. I don't know if my expectations were too high or I was missing the point, but this book was really very middle of the road for me. It was ultimately a struggle to get through. Ella gets invited to join the Rabbit Back Literature Society, an exclusive group of ten writers invited to study with famous children's author Laura White. Members of the group play what they simply refer to as The Game, which is kind of like the most extreme form of Truth or Dare ever without the Dare option. There are mysterious disappearances and deaths and other secrets floating around the Society, and Ella decides to use the The Game to investigate those things. The writing is largely fine, very typical of stark Scandanavian prose, but I wasn't a big fan of the structure used here. Having Ella use The Game to get members to spill secrets left me with a deflated feeling of suspense. There are some supernatural elements of the book that are a little creepy but, for me, they were overshadowed by the weird use of violence and other rules of The Game for reasons that just weren't clear. I don't know...I just felt like I was missing something the entire time.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Laurelas

    3,5/4 I never would have thought that this book was so quirky, dark and enigmatic. It mixes fantasy and reality in a way that you finish the book, wondering, as things are left unresolved. It's a winter book, that's for sure, with all the snowy scenery, but I wouldn't call it cosy - it's way too mysterious, and utterly dark sometimes. I still need to think about it all, but I've definitely enjoyed the book, precisely because of its unexpected nature! 3,5/4 I never would have thought that this book was so quirky, dark and enigmatic. It mixes fantasy and reality in a way that you finish the book, wondering, as things are left unresolved. It's a winter book, that's for sure, with all the snowy scenery, but I wouldn't call it cosy - it's way too mysterious, and utterly dark sometimes. I still need to think about it all, but I've definitely enjoyed the book, precisely because of its unexpected nature!

  29. 4 out of 5

    Kirsty

    The Rabbit Back Literature Society by Pasi Ilmari Jaaskalainen was first published in Finland in 2006. The novel in its lovely Pushkin Press edition has been translated from its original Finnish by Lola M. Rogers. The novel’s protagonist, twenty six-year-old Ella Milana, is first introduced to us as ‘the reader’. She is a Finnish language and literature teacher – ‘a dreamy substitute with defective ovaries and gracefully curved lips’ – who has returned to her hometown, Rabbit Back, to work as a s The Rabbit Back Literature Society by Pasi Ilmari Jaaskalainen was first published in Finland in 2006. The novel in its lovely Pushkin Press edition has been translated from its original Finnish by Lola M. Rogers. The novel’s protagonist, twenty six-year-old Ella Milana, is first introduced to us as ‘the reader’. She is a Finnish language and literature teacher – ‘a dreamy substitute with defective ovaries and gracefully curved lips’ – who has returned to her hometown, Rabbit Back, to work as a substitute at the high school. Whilst living in her childhood home once more, Ella finds herself with rather a lot to deal with – along with a stressful pile of marking each evening, her father is suffering from quite extreme memory loss, and all that interests her mother are ‘television shows and entering raffle drawings in the hope of winning a prize’. Ella’s story begins when one of her students is found reading an incorrect version of Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment, in which the plot has been altered considerably: ‘… the existence of the irregular Dostoevky deeply offended her, and when she was offended she could sometimes do impulsive, purely intuitive things’. When returning it to the local library, Ella becomes suspicious that the librarian is not more surprised by the incident: ‘A prank like that would take a very unusual saboteur and it was hard to imagine what the motive would be. And how could such a book remain in circulation for nearly twenty years without anyone noticing anything strange about it?’ The Rabbit Back Literature Society of the novel’s title is ‘a collection of gifted children who would, with [Laura] White’s guidance, grow up to be writers’. Promising students at the Rabbit Back school have work sent to local and revered children’s author Laura White, who is continually involved in ‘her search for the new members she desires’. At the beginning of the novel, however, the society has had no new members for three decades: ‘The possibility of joining the society was practically theoretical, since the entire present membership – nine lifetime member authors – had all joined in the first three years after the Society was established in 1968’. After one of Ella’s short stories is published in a supplement in the local paper, however, she is invited to join the Society. We are given quite a fascinating insight into the world of the elite in consequence. At a society get together, for example, ‘The members of the Rabbit Back Literature Society don’t seem to be talking with each other. They pass close by each other now and then, but never look each other in the eye, never indulge in conversation. One could very easily assume that they don’t know each other at all’. Two elements of mystery – one of which revolves around a shadowy past member whom nobody really remembers, and the other of which deals with the sudden unexplained disappearance of Laura White herself – soon come to light. Bookish Ella is a character whom I found myself immediately endeared to: ‘She’d read more than was healthy, hundreds of books every year. Some of them she read twice, or even three times, before returning them. Some of them she would check out again after letting them sink in a while. She’d thought at that time that books were at their best when you’d read them two or three times’. The novel’s third person perspective focuses mainly upon Ella and her place in Rabbit Back; a lot of thought has clearly gone into her character, her past and her actions. Such care has been taken over the translation of The Rabbit Back Literature Society, and it flows wonderfully. The whole is compelling, and is filled with some lovely passages and ideas. There is a creative aspect to be found in The Rabbit Back Literature Society, and Jaaskalainen has woven in elements of magical realism here and there, which add a wonderful balance to the whole. The novel becomes darker as it goes on, and it has been so well crafted that it is a true joy to read.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Charlotte Jones

    Not only is the cover absolutely gorgeous but I am trying to diversify my reading more with the new books I am getting and reading so this completely fits that goal with Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen being a Finnish author. I love the dark humour that is peppered throughout this book and it is definitely one of the perks of this being a translated work but this also has some disadvantages. At points I feel that the writing seemed a little disconnected and although I understand that mysterious novels Not only is the cover absolutely gorgeous but I am trying to diversify my reading more with the new books I am getting and reading so this completely fits that goal with Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen being a Finnish author. I love the dark humour that is peppered throughout this book and it is definitely one of the perks of this being a translated work but this also has some disadvantages. At points I feel that the writing seemed a little disconnected and although I understand that mysterious novels can get away with this, it did make this a little slow at points. I would say that some of the subject matter discussed in this novel is definitely more suited to mature readers as there is one scene of sexual violence described and although it is just a page or so, I understand that this could trigger some readers. The writing and plot of this novel was so full of mystery and intrigue that I managed to read The Rabbit Back Literature Society in just a few days, even with working every day. I just needed to know what was going on and although there were some aspects that weren’t really my cup of tea, I did thoroughly enjoy this novel and would love to try something else by this author. It may seem that I’m not saying much about the actual plot of the novel and to be honest, that is purposeful. This is definitely the type of story that you need to go into knowing very little about it and see where it takes you. Although there were some threads of the story left completely unanswered by the end of the novel, the final chapters felt like a great ending to a strange and unnerving novel and completely fitted the story. Overall I would recommend this to anyone who loves mysteries and books about books!

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