The Rabbit Back Literature Society - Pasi Ilmari Jaaskelainen, Lola M. Rogers

In preparation for my trip to WorldCon in Helsinki next year, I've been picking up the odd Finnish SFF book here and there, with The Rabbit Back Literature Society being one that was recommended - to be honest, I think a better description of it would be magical realism but there's certainly fantasy elements in there so trying to pigeon-hole it doesn't really work too well...

 

The basic premise of the book is that there is a small town, the Rabbit Back of the book's title, where a famous children's book author has been living and where she'd made it her mission to recruit talented child writers and nurture them. Everyone knows that the Literature Society has always had 9 members, all of whom have made a success of their writing career in different genres, no matter how prolific they have turned out to be. This is also a town where the supernatural seems to be very near the surface, so it probably shouldn't come as any surprise to recently-returned literature teacher Ella when she discovers that the local library's books are mutating.

 

When Ella is asked to join the Literature Society and then the author who runs it disappears, she uses the rules of the Society to try and find out what has been going on - there's a particular ritualised interrogation method that the authors have always been encouraged to use on one another. Ella soon discovers there was a previous tenth member, a boy nobody wants to talk about, and sets herself the task of finding out just what happened to him and why nobody can remember his name. In the end, Ella gets some answers but not all, which was a little frustrating.

 

In all, The Rabbit Back Literature Society was entertaining enough to keep me reading, which isn't always the easiest of tasks, and the writing itself was good. I have some issues with Ella and how she perceives herself, to the point of wondering how a female author would have dealt with the same things - in particular, early on Ella is told she can't have children due to a gynaecological problem and there's also some semi-obsessive stuff around body image that felt a little stilted. There's also a remembered event involving another of the authors that's clearly rape, even though it's not described from his perspective as being such, and that may well be an issue for many readers - to be honest, if it had happened earlier in the book, that might have been it for me.