Author Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen
Vote 2/10
Reviewed on 2018-07-09
Read in French

This one has made me furious. The following contains spoilers.

A random quote:

Happiness is satisfaction – a feeling where the man feels content about the prevalent state of things. A man has, however, a need, peculiar to his species, to aim farther, to want more, to influence things, that is, to progress constantly. The happy being stops progressing because happiness is satisfaction and progress is based on dissatisfaction.

In a small town in Finland lives a great author of child literature, one Laura Lumikko. In the Seventies, when she’s already a famous writer, she founds a literary society where she admits children of her choice, to teach them the job of writing (but also, we discover later, for some more selfish goals). The society has only admitted nine children in the last thirty years and has been looking ever since for a tenth member.

Ella Milana, a young teacher of Finnish literature, starts an interaction with one of the members, Ingrid Kissala, who also happens to be the town’s librarian. The beginning is rather interesting, with Ella finding out that some books have been partially rewritten, and Ingrid trying to conceal what is really going on. (Nothing is. There’s a pest that affects the books and that is passed from one to another, and Ingrid tries to contain it by burning the infected books down. But there’s no consequence to this. Only a few books burned.) Then this thread is broken to allow the surprise election of Ella to be the tenth member of the society.

At the evening gala for her admission, hosted by Laura in her house, when the author is walking down the staircase and in front of all the invitees, a snowstorm starts raging inside the house, and Laura disappears. No further explanation is given, and you don’t get any by the end of the book. Boom.

Apparently, inside the society, there exists a secret Game, where a member can defy another one, by asking them a question, about which the member must… say the absolute truth! (This is utterly silly but I suspended disbelief and went with it.) In exchange, the challenger must reply as well to a question coming from the person being challenged. Uhm, okay. What about actually chatting? Ah no, having a Game (with the capital G) seems cooler.

We discover that there used to be a tenth member of the society, which one of the members describes as the most brilliant of them all. The guy mysteriously dies in a car accident. His notebook with his ideas, is suggested, might have been the secret source of all the book plots of the other nine members throughout their careers. Interesting.

The notebook is buried inside the property of Martti Talvimaa, one of the members. At some point it is unburied and we discover that there’s no real note in it, only some meaningless symbols. To top it off, the boy is revealed to be autistic, so there couldn’t have been any really good story coming from his notes (even though he used to recite passages from classic authors that his parents used to read at home). End.

Why on Earth does Laura Lumikko disappear? Mystery. Why does the boy obsess Martti? No one knows. Why does the boy appear as a ghost in Martti’s garden? What about Ella’s father and his brief relationship with the society? and the book’s pest?

I hate it when books bring in the supernatural, and then just leave it there, so it looks cool. The threads just don’t add up, and what’s left is just the feeling of time wasted.

I have appreciated a few observations about the writer’s job and condition (trite), and the tragedies thrown in (Ella’s father’s death, the young boy being killed in a crash, Ella herself abandoned by her fiancé after discovering that she can’t have babies), and I really wanted to like it. But I couldn’t.

Note: the title of the English translation of this book is The Rabbit Back Literature Society.