The Rabbit Back Literature Society by Pasi Ilmari Jaaskelainen

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The Rabbit Back Literature Society by Pasi Ilmari Jaaskelainen

Category: Literary Fiction
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Steve Shayler
Reviewed by Steve Shayler
Summary: An unusual and slightly magical story about a group of writers, their inspirations and their pasts. This is a bizarre look at the strange thought processes of authors set within a charming story in an exciting world.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 352 Date: November 2013
Publisher: Pushkin Press
ISBN: 978-1908968982

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Ella Milana is a language and literature supply teacher currently teaching in her hometown of Rabbit Back and dealing with challenging revelations in her life. Ella is unexpectedly invited to join the hugely successful and influential Rabbit Back Literature Society, a group of nine authors who were hand selected and mentored from childhood by Finland’s greatest author (Laura White) to become literary icons in their own right. There weere always intended to be ten members of the society but Laura White has not selected a new member for decades and the appointment of Ella is a massive literary event. The ceremony in honour of Ella’s new membership to the incredibly elite society is unfortunately overshadowed by Laura White’s disappearance at the ceremony itself.

The disappearance of the hugely famous author gives a taste of what is to come, with Miss White disappearing in a flurry of snow whilst descending her staircase to the waiting guests below. All who were present saw the author disappear and a snow storm rage briefly within her home; this is the first sign that this is to be an unusual story with fantasy and exaggerated drama. What starts as a simple straight story of potentially the makings of a new and talented author in the character of Ella Milana becomes a quirky tale that blends mystery, folklore and the surreal in a way that meant I was often questioning what was real and what was imagined.

Rabbit Back is a small town where reality and fantasy overlap considerably lending the place a really magical but also slightly disturbing and bizarre quality; a critic’s comment on the cover likens the town to Twin Peaks which is a pretty accurate comparison although Rabbit Back has a more playful feel. The town is completely dominated by the presence of Laura White and her literary disciples and as such is almost a place of pilgrimage to many fans of the authors. This is a place where there seem to be more little sculptures of goblins and other creatures from Miss White’s children’s stories than human residents, not to mention the packs of stray dogs skulking around the place. If there was ever to be a film made of The Rabbit Back Literature Society it would have to be directed by Tim Burton to create the right atmosphere and to do the town justice.

The society itself is just as unusual and steeped in mystery as the town in which it is based. Members of the society play a game called simply, The Game, in which they challenge each other between the hours of 10pm and 6am and then the challenged and the challenger have to withstand an ordeal that reveals their innermost secrets and feelings. In order to challenge each other in the first place the authors break into each other’s houses or set up an ambush somewhere, even crawling through ventilation ducts or creating elaborate ruses to entice the author to be challenged from their home.

Ella’s research into the society and Laura White leads to a thoroughly satisfying almost fable-like ending. Throughout the course of the story though I feel there were a couple of plot lines that were not fully resolved by the conclusion and although it can be fun as a reader to be kept guessing and interpreting ourselves, in this instance these felt more like forgotten strands of the story.

The Rabbit Back Literature Society contains a pretty bizarre plot set in an incredibly peculiar little town which is all written unconventionally. Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen’s first book to be translated into English is charming and intriguing, switching from playful to creepy to heartfelt and back again, it really is good fun.

Another good story based in the world of literature is The Best Book in the World by Peter Stjernstrom and Rod Bradbury (translator).

Buy The Rabbit Back Literature Society by Pasi Ilmari Jaaskelainen at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Rabbit Back Literature Society by Pasi Ilmari Jaaskelainen at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy The Rabbit Back Literature Society by Pasi Ilmari Jaaskelainen at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Rabbit Back Literature Society by Pasi Ilmari Jaaskelainen at Amazon.com.


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