A disturbing and heartbreaking novel that deserves a wide audience.


A subtle, heart-rending Estonian novel about a father in the last few months of his life trying to reconstruct the circumstances of his daughter’s suicide.

Enn Padrik is the father and the narrator of this story, which has been translated from the Estonian in straightforward, engaging prose. Five years after his daughter, Anni, died mysteriously along with three other people, he finds out he’s dying of cancer and wants to put together the pieces of this cryptic puzzle. All four died in a fire at a commune, but it was determined that by the time the fire started they were already dead, “lying side by side...in the master bedroom…a small packed suitcase lying beside each of them.” In his limited remaining time, Padrik seeks out other members of the commune as well as people who interacted with Anni before she went there. The novel has a Rashomon-like feel as Padrik comes to realize that accounts about Anni diverge, and no single perspective suffices to explain her life and death. We get different facets of her personality, for example, from friends recalling Anni’s own reminiscences about her life in Paris, where she had been working on a research project about Eastern European prostitutes, from a man named Erik who attended a Christian youth camp with Anni, and finally, and most movingly, from Carola, who had been at the Birchback commune, was supposed to have been the fifth person involved in the mass suicide, and had escaped. Raud (The Brother, 2016, etc.) treats his narrator and all of his interviewees with respect and allows them to tell their versions of Anni’s story. It turns out there are no easy—and ultimately no satisfying—answers to explain Anni’s transformation from a bright young schoolgirl to a member of what amounted to a religious cult.

A disturbing and heartbreaking novel that deserves a wide audience.

Pub Date: April 21, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-91658-380-4

Page Count: 265

Publisher: Dalkey Archive

Review Posted Online: March 7, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2017

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A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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This is good Hemingway. It has some of the tenderness of A Farewell to Arms and some of its amazing power to make one feel inside the picture of a nation at war, of the people experiencing war shorn of its glamor, of the emotions that the effects of war — rather than war itself — arouse. But in style and tempo and impact, there is greater resemblance to The Sun Also Rises. Implicit in the characters and the story is the whole tragic lesson of Spain's Civil War, proving ground for today's holocaust, and carrying in its small compass, the contradictions, the human frailties, the heroism and idealism and shortcomings. In retrospect the thread of the story itself is slight. Three days, during which time a young American, a professor who has taken his Sabbatical year from the University of Montana to play his part in the struggle for Loyalist Spain and democracy. He is sent to a guerilla camp of partisans within the Fascist lines to blow up a strategic bridge. His is a complex problem in humanity, a group of undisciplined, unorganized natives, emotionally geared to go their own way, while he has a job that demands unreasoning, unwavering obedience. He falls in love with a lovely refugee girl, escaping the terrors of a fascist imprisonment, and their romance is sharply etched against a gruesome background. It is a searing book; Hemingway has done more to dramatize the Spanish War than any amount of abstract declamation. Yet he has done it through revealing the pettinesses, the indignities, the jealousies, the cruelties on both sides, never glorifying simply presenting starkly the belief in the principles for which these people fought a hopeless war, to give the rest of the world an interval to prepare. There is something of the implacable logic of Verdun in the telling. It's not a book for the thin-skinned; it has more than its fill of obscenities and the style is clipped and almost too elliptical for clarity at times. But it is a book that repays one for bleak moments of unpleasantness.

Pub Date: Oct. 21, 1940

ISBN: 0684803356

Page Count: 484

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1940

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