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Purge Paperback – Deckle Edge, April 6, 2010
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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)
Top Customer Reviews
It's one of those rare books that I kept thinking about even long after I'd finished reading it. I am well-familiar with the recent history and today's challenges of Estonia and Eastern Europe in general. This book opened yet another door to Pandora's Box. I know there are many "Zara's" in the world, but never once before had I a reason to stop and think WHO are they, and WHY are they where they are. Never before did I think that they, too, might just be your average girls with families, dreams and aspirations, and that perhaps they just happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time.
And could someone like Aliide Truu be for real?! She certainly seems unbelievably believable. The more I think about it, the more I think that there may be just as many "Aliide's" as "Zara's" out there... Like they say, you shouldn't judge until you walk in their shoes, for everyone has their story and their reasons.
I have no idea how much of this is fiction vs. real peoples' lives, but it is a damn well written book. And, with the right cast and director, it would make a great movie.
To begin, this book has nothing to do with eating disorders, and the only real complaint I have is that the cover art scarcely seems to apply to the complicated work within. After you've read it, you realize that the cover does in fact refer to details encountered, but I'm curious if the cover itself would dissuade readers from picking it up. A pretty measly complaint, to be followed by lavish praise! However, I'm also known to pick out wine based on how artistic the bottle labels look, rather than whether it is any good or not, so maybe that's just me!
That said, there are two interlinking threads in this story. One character thinks she's escaping her small Russian village, allured by the glamorous Western world represented to her by elegant silk stockings worn by a visiting friend. Unfortunately, while Zara focuses on the material luxury represented by those stockings, she doesn't see the wave her friend gives her, "it looked more like she was scraping at the air with red fingernails. Her fingers were slightly curled, as if she were ready to scratch." Desirous of that `better life', frustrated with her silent mother and her fragile grandmother, Zara thinks she can escape. Instead she's kidnapped and chained, set up by that friend, and headed for a brutal world in Germany: a place that makes Vladivostok look much more beautiful.
In the meantime, Aliide leads a quiet life in Estonia, her days spent canning and cultivating her small garden and dairy animals, dwelling in the past. Since childhoood, her life was filled with pain, suffering, and loss. Her village had suffered from Fascist and Communist occupation, with many citizens (including her own sister and niece) being sent to Siberia. The village itself was a complex array of loyalties...those that hoped for American intervention to save them, others loyal to Russia, and still others harboring German sympathies. Not even the simplest of farmers could trust one another: too much was at stake. The atrocities from all sides were fresh in everyone's memories. The result was people who carried physical and mental scars, who were eaten up with regret and suspicion. Aliide was one of them, more damaged than most.
Eventually Zara makes an escape, and her path crosses with Aliide. Their new relationship is mistrustful and edgy, as neither knows the true identity or agenda of the other. As this developed, I was sure that "this" relationship was the core of the novel. I was wrong, and the way the story proceeds is not only unpredictable but shocking and ugly. No one is as they appear, and trust is unachievable. Because it turns out that Aliide knows far more about Zara than either realized, and the threads that connect them go back further than their chance meeting. Here unfolds the deeper part of the novel, the most disturbing, as we see that Aliide is not the warm-hearted savior we expected her to be, and her damaged psyche is revealed.
The underlying theme is that appearances can be deceptive. A person can appear good, or moral, or upstanding. But what they hide can be unimaginable, and they keep the deception up so well that they can convince themselves it doesn't exist. Danger is present everywhere, but it can distract you with a beautiful appearance. This is well expressed in an introductory quote from Paul-Eerik Rummo: "The walls have ears, and the ears have beautiful earrings." Such a simple quote, but it describes much of what the novel means.
This is a combination of crime fiction and historical fiction, and fans of both would be pleased. It was translated from the Finnish by Lola Rogers.
Part of my disappointment may be from the translation, as it sounds very tinny to my ear and is error-riddled. Some names are left in their original grammatical cases. Some things are simply incorrect - an Estonian would never have used cumin, or likely even known what it was. It should have been translated as caraway seeds.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
John Christmas, author of "Democracy Society"