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Purge Paperback – Deckle Edge, April 6, 2010
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In Oksanen’s first novel translated into English, mystery surrounds the grimy, disheveled girl secretive Aliide finds lying in the yard of her house in the Estonian countryside that is full of homemade elixirs and dried herbs, flowers, and fruits, homegrown or from the nearby woods. The girl, Zara, speaks an archaic, provincial Estonian “yellow and moth-eaten . . . with a strange smell of death in it,” which leads Aliide to suspect she’s connected with thieves, possibly those plundering the woods for lumber to sell to the West. In 1992 Estonia, anything’s possible, and though Aliide wants to distance herself from Zara’s “repulsive, familiar smell of fear,” she opens her door to the bedraggled girl, despite her better judgment. Thus, the stage is set for reopening wounds from the decades of Estonia’s post-WWII Soviet occupation, when camp survivors streamed in, eyes averted, and refugees “disappeared into the mouths of the new factories.” Maps help orient readers, who will dive into this taut, well-crafted tale of Europe’s still living post-war pain. --Whitney Scott
A stunner . . . [Purge is] a compelling look at what we do to survive.”Karen R. Long, The Plain Dealer (Cleveland)
"Purge is that very rare thing, a sheer masterpiece . . . A marvel . . . I hope that everyone in the world who knows how to read, reads Purge."--Nancy Huston, author of Fault Lines
Oksanen’s fluid, unadorned prose gives shape to unspeakable violence and illuminates the process of remembering.”The L Magazine (Top 10 Books of 2010)
A captivating book about two women with dark secrets and an underlying connection. . . . Oksanen skillfully weaves histories together to form a rich, complex nove.”Shelf Awareness (Top 10 Books of 2010)
[A] bold combination of history, politics, and suspense.”Sunday Times (UK)
This is a novel of big issuesthe sex industry, the Soviet annexation of Estonia after World War II, the Chernobyl disaster, the tumultuous years immediately after the breakup of the USSR. It’s a lot to take on, but Oksanen manages to keep her focus tight . . . handling a complicated, tricky story with deftness and skill. Purge is a serious book, but not a dour one. It has a thriller’s air of suspense . . . but there is a tragic core to this story that will reward closer attention.”Bookslut
[A] taut, well-crafted tale of Europe’s still living post-war pain.”Booklist
Sofi Oksanen’s disturbing, riveting novel Purge . . . is a jolt. Set in 1992, only three years removed from the joyful optimism undammed by the demolition of the Berlin Wall, Purge burns through the mists to show how decades of debasement have twisted society in the former USSR into one characterized by crime and cruelty. Oksanen couches this larger theme within a tight, unconventional crime novel, one punctuated by dreadful silences, shameful revelations and repellent intimacies. By examining the toll of history on a close, personal level, Oksanen . . . makes the cost of mere survival sickeningly palpable. . . . Evoking both noir and fairy tales . . . Purge is an engrossing read.”NPR.org
Power and loss are the themes of Sofi Oksanen's gripping novel, Purge. . . . This is not a book to read last thing at night. It reminds us of things that we would rather forget, that happened while the world looked away. It is the story of millions of people forced to make impossible choices, who had their lives and happiness stolen, and then survived only to find new bullies and cheats taking the place of the old ones. . . . Bears comparison with the excellent novels of Marina Lewycka, A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian and the semi-sequel Two Caravans.”The Economist online (Essential Reading”)
A dark, harrowing, and at times difficult read that wrings every ounce of emotion from the reader.”The Bookseller
This wonderfully subtle thriller . . . captures both the tragic consequences of one of Europe’s biggest conflicts and the universal horrors that war inflicts on women. With a tone somewhere between Ian McEwan’s Atonement and the best of the current crop of European crime novelists, this bitter gem promises great things from the talented Oksanen.”Kirkus Reviews
"Purge is a truly stunning novel, both heartbreaking and optimistic. Through the stories of two women, Sofi Oksanen shows us the history of a country that has been repeatedly violated by the Russians, by the West, by history itself, yet managed to stand strong."Lara Vapnyar, author of There Are Jews in my House
A riveting tale . . . Oksanen adeptly handles dual story lines and multiple points of view as she keeps us turning pages to reach the dramatic conclusion. Highly recommended for fans of classic Russian writers like Tolstoy and Pasternak, as well as those who enjoy a contemporary tale of lust and betrayal."Library Journal
Vivid . . . Life in Estonia under Soviet rule is dramatically portrayed in this award-winning Finnish novel. . . . Oksanen paints a vivid picture of the landscape and people of Estonia. She deftly interweaves universal themes of love, isolation, political instability and human trafficking, involving the reader from the beginning to the surprising ending. She does not shrink from depicting rape, torture or murder. But she includes tender moments as well, giving a human face to historical facts. . . . Her frank, short sentences bore to the truth’ in a direct style that her characters are unable to use.”Carol Hussa Harvey, Winnipeg Free Press
Purge is a breathtaking novel dense with emotion that snares the reader from the very first pages. . . . Moving and horrifying, it leaves you shuddering and gasping for breath.”Ilkka (Finland)
Cruel, compelling, and nuanced, Purge vibrates with suspense: unspoken secrets and deeply shameful deeds . . . spread like a web over the book, forcing the reader to go on turning the pages. . . . Vivid, precise, and beautiful.”Hufvudstadsbladet (Finland)
A stinging account of a chapter of Eastern European history that we are on the verge of forgettingor denying . . . Sofi Oksanen is an eminently skilled novelist, intricately unraveling her fascinating story bit by bit. She has a sense for the subtle inner drama of a distorted mind and love’s self-deceptive logic. Finland can be proud of its brilliant new star.”
Jyllands-Posten (6 out of 6 stars) (Denmark)
The multidimensionality of Purge is startling. . . . [The novel] encompasses the grand themes . . . [of] shame, betrayal, guilt, atonement . . . with the complexity and seriousness worthy of them.”Turun Sanomat (Finland)
Now and then I read books that are so good that I can’t quite understand how the author does it. . . . Purge is a fantastic novel, as well as a declaration of love to Estonia.”Dagbladet (Norway)
The first chapter of Purge displays the most condensed, metaphorically effective language I have read in a long time. . . . Oksanen’s beautiful prose breaks the silence of the shame and guilt of oppression, and does so with a determination that provides popular storytelling with a legitimacy and weight that one doesn’t often experience.”Aftonbladet (Sweden)
Oksanen is a tightrope walker. . . . Piercingly and mercilessly she reveals the human cost of brutal political regimes, and even manages to tie the abuses of the past to the heartbreaking story of young Zara and her destiny. . . . An overwhelming reading experience.”Dagsavisen (Norway)
Oksanen is unusually skilled when it comes to building suspense, and this is a brutal novelit is brutally physical, it exposes the brutality in the greater and smaller games we play, and it is brutally suspenseful to read. . . . Extraordinary.”NRK (Norway)
Vibrant . . . Absolutely convincing . . . A compelling document of the eternally humane and the eternally inhumane.”Dag og Tid (Norway)
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Top customer reviews
The novel illuminates the impossible position people found themselves in when empire-building neighbors fought bitterly over their soil. Amid this geopolitical turmoil, two sisters’ romantic rivalry has weighty consequences over many decades. Brainy Aliide’s entire life is devoted to her love for her beautiful sister Ingel’s husband Hans. Aliide cruelly engineers a separation, but this does not bring her happiness. In fact, many years later it brings her comeuppance in the form of a grand-daughter she never knew existed.
Psychological crime novels from Scandinavia have attracted many readers in recent years, but “Purge” is actually about something beyond criminal horror. The creepy feeling you get turning Oksanen’s pages grows out of the reality she conveys. She convinces you that this is the way it was in that time and place.
The source of my nostalgia was in a book about the Soviet occupation of Estonia. That is all I could remember at the time, but it was far more than good enough for the almighty power of Google's search algorithm. I saw the cover of the book and found myself five years in the past, wandering a bookstore somewhere in europe. I got the book because my mother, like Sofi is from Finland, which was a dumb reason in retrospect, but who needs a good reason to read a book (there are so many, and we all have so little time). Needless to say, I reordered it immediately. This book is beautiful to the point of sadness. Please take my advice and read this book. You will feel its touch years from now and you certainly will never regret it.
And to think, I wouldn't have heard of it except for a Finnish guest who recommended it.
This complex and somewhat convoluted novel begins with a disheveled young girl (quickly revealed to be a sex-trafficking victim) appearing in the front yard of a woman living in a remote village of Estonia.
Eventually, as the story's complex relationships unfold over 3 generations spanning 1930-1990 (roughly), it is revealed that they are related.
Once a reader becomes engaged in the book (it took me about 50 pages because of the odd leaps back and forth in time), the suspense is relentless as the two women slowly come to understand the dark and shameful history that binds them.
Love, loss, lust, shame, guilt, murder, tragedy, rivalry, deceit during the occupation of Estonia by the USSR...and and exploration of the ends to which people had to go (and did) in order to survive.
Riveting reading, excellent writing...and very, very sad.
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John Christmas, author of "Democracy Society"