Monday, January 17, 2011

Sofi Oksanen.

It's week number three and I have finished book number three. I'm pleased to say that it's another good one! My expectations were rather high, and I did actually think that it would be more of the kind of book you can't put down (my mother said something of the kind, but that just shows that I'm harder to please than her) so from that point of view I was a bit disappointed, but the book is so skillfully written that it makes up for it.

The story in this book takes place in the 1940s and 50s in Estonia, as well as in 1992. You follow the Estonian girl Aliide and her sister Ingel (who is the beautiful one, the successful one, the desirable one) when the Germans and then the Communists arrive, and at the same time, interlaced with the story of Aliide's sad youth, you follow Zara, a victim of trafficking and prostitution who, bruised and afraid, ends up on Aliide's lawn in 1992, after escaping from her pimp. It's a rater complex story. Zara is, as a matter of fact, Aliide's sister's granddaughter, who has grown up in Russia. It's not a coincidence that she ends up in Aliide's village, but she didn't exactly get there the way she planned. Aliide's relation to her own sister is not what it should be though, and Zara, in dire need of help, is not really certain if it's a good idea to actually enlighten Aliide on her identity. For some reason, Aliide has no sister, and Zara's mother has no aunt... But she knows that she has little time, that soon she will be found and there will be no more escape.

Aliide is a fascinating character. It's hard to dislike her, even though she is not at all sympathetic. She's obsessive and she smells of onions. She is oddly hard, certainly not afraid of the young men who come to throw rocks at her windows and who she is certain will one day burn down her house. She is the victim of rape and abuse at the hands of the Communists, but she looks down on other women in her own situation and cannot bear the idea that her shame should be made known, so she becomes one of them - the Communists. Her own jealousy towards her sister has driven her to commit acts that should really trouble someone's conscience for the rest of their life, but she seems oddly untouched by it. And she has the impulse to beat people rather often. If I'm not mistaken she imagines beating one man until his intestines are all mush.

In a way you could say that this is a book about betrayal and lack of love that slowly breaks down people and turns them into something they were not originally meant to be.

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