23 September 2010


Until Sofi Oksanen's Purge was put forth as a Literature by Women selection, I had always assumed the novel was about eating disorders or something like that.  The US edition has a woman in an apron and kerchief (the cover cuts her off just below the eyes) standing before a table and a lump of dough.  So, food and not eating/purging oneself of food.  Well, not so.  Purge tells the story of the elderly Aliide Truu, an Estonian woman, and Zara, a Russian girl Aliide finds sleeping in her front garden.  Both women have mysterious pasts, both have something to share and something to hide.

Purge is a critically-acclaimed novel in Finland and Scandinavia, winning major literary prizes and making Oksanen one of the youngest acclaimed writers in the region.  Rather than tell the story from beginning to end as an omniscient narrator, Oksanen uses an alternating narrative to move the book forward, switching points-of-view between Aliide - distrustful of strangers after the horrors of World War II and the Soviet occupation - and Zara - distrustful of nearly everyone after a disastrous "new start" in Western Europe - to tell a story about human trafficking in "civilized" modern Europe.  As the story unfolds, and each woman thinks of her past, only the reader is aware of Aliide and Zara's shared history.  However, the reader can never be sure how much each woman has realized she knows about the other.  After a heart-stopping climax, the reader is left with more questions than answers.

*Sorry for the brief review - I'm trying to catch the back-log as quickly as I can.

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