{Review} The Year of the Hare – Arto Paasilinna

04 Jul

Read for Rose City Reader’s European Reading Challenge 2014 (Finland)

Back in 2012 when I started this blog, one of the first books I reviewed was Paasilinna’s A Charming Mass Suicide. Weird as it may sound, I needed to read that book at that stage of my life. I was afraid to try to read any of his other works as I didn’t know if they’d strike the same chord as A Charming Mass Suicide.

Two years later, in a completely different country and forced to sit in a chair for most of the day (I’ve sprained my ankle and my goodness does it HURT), one of my house-mates lent me The Year of the Hare to pass the time.

Did it live up to the high standard Paasilinna set with ACMS?

Blurb from the publisher’s site
Vatanen the journalist is sick of his job and fed up with city life. One summer evening while he is out on an assignment his car hits a young hare on a country road. Vatanen goes in search of the injured creature, and this small incident becomes a life-changing experience as he decides to break free from the world’s constraints. He quits his job, leaves his wife and sells his possessions to travel in the wilds of Finland with his new-found friend. Their adventures take in forest fires, pagan sacrifices, military war games, killer bears and much more.

As you may have gathered from my reviews of Nothomb’s “A Life Form” and Kurkov’s “Death and the Penguin

How can you say ‘no’ to this cover? Seriously! How?!

”, I do rather like my books to have a little dash of the unexpected in them. Luckily for me, The Year of the Hare definitely delivered the goods here.

I don’t know if I was reading this ‘right’, but my overwhelming impression was that this is the story of a man who decided that he wanted a simpler life and then spent the course of the novel finding out just how hard it is to lead that sort of life when you factor in interacting with the rest of the world.

That is a horrific over-simplification of a beautifully crafted story but I’m going to stand by it. Each chapter moved from one strange (and sometimes surreal) scene to the next and the penultimate chapter introduced a rather amusing twist on the book as a whole. No spoilers, I promise!

The section set in the USSR was particularly amusing, especially when contrasted with the action of the last few chapters. Sort of wondering if the bear was allegorical for the USSR…

Any theories on this one are welcome. 🙂

If you’re after a quick read with a plot that’ll stay with you for a while, then this is the book for you. Likewise, if you’re finally standing up to external pressures and trying to live the sort of life you’ve always hoped to, then you may find that this book makes you feel better about all the moments along the road when you end up falling flat on your face and feeling like an eejit.

As before, this Paasilinna novel found me at just the right time in life. 🙂 I sincerely hope we keep meeting like this.

In the meantime, if you have read any Finnish novels and enjoyed them, please tell me the titles?


Posted by on July 4, 2014 in 2014 Reading Challenges, Books


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4 responses to “{Review} The Year of the Hare – Arto Paasilinna

  1. Fiona

    July 4, 2014 at 23:34

    I enjoyed this, but not as much as The Howling Miller which I read for my old book group. I really enjoyed that book – fantastically written. Although translated in a round about way. The English version was translated from the French translation of the Finnish. Having read both though (the Hare book I think translated from the original Finnish) it still feels like the same author.

    • wildnightin

      July 5, 2014 at 16:53

      That is a roundabout translation! Any idea as to why they translated it from the French?

      Thanks for the Paasilinna suggestion. The Howling Miller’s now in my to-read list. The blurb on the back of it sounds interesting. Think I may actually try to find a copy whilst I’m up North for the summer… Have you read any other books by him?

      • Fiona

        July 7, 2014 at 17:03

        I’m not sure why they had such a roundabout translation… maybe they could not find a Finnish translator at the time? I imagine there can’t be too many around.

        I have only read this one you’ve reviewed here, as well as The Howling Miller. I’d like to read more. I like his style and humour.

      • wildnightin

        July 9, 2014 at 12:01

        That’s a point- it must be tricky to get hold of a really good Finnish -> English translator. They must be able to pick and choose their work.

        His style’s really good. Have you read anything by Kurkov?


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