Purge – Sofi Oksanen


I picked up Purge afer reading several glowing reviews and I remember one of the reviewers urging everyone to read this book. I also enjoy books set in Eastern Europe – Purge is set in Estonia, a country I know little about but Tallin has been on my travel wish list for a while. Then I saw it come into the bookshops here in the UK and thought it was time to try it. I’m glad I did, it’s not a light read and takes a while to get going but is worth it.

The year is 1992 and Aliide Truu is an old woman living in the family home she has been in for over 40 years on the edge of a forest in an Estonian village. Her husband is dead and her daughter is far away in Finland. Daily life for Aliide is a battle with the flies over her food and dealing with the local boys throwing rocks at her house – a reminder of times gone by and the decisions she made and has had to live with since. Aliide is a suspicious woman, and becomes even more so when a young woman Zara, on the run from something, turns up in a dishevelled heap in her front garden. It becomes apparent that this arrival is no accident and kicks off a game of cat and mouse between the two women, each with secrets and devastating histories.

Most of Aliide’s story takes place during the Soviet occupation of Estonia during and following WII and all the horrors that came with that for Aliide as a young woman, for her family, for a people and a nation. The fact that Purge is a work of fiction offers little comfort for the reader, Sofi Oksanen has Estonian ancestory and has a dedication at the beginning of the book to the real men and women who lived during this time. Fear, violation and loss of freedom permeate this story but more than that it is about trust and betrayal and ultimately survival.

I wondered at first if I was going to enjoy this book. It seemed a bit stilted and I wondered if perhaps it suffered in translation. As Aliide’s story was slowly revealed though, I become engrossed with it and that part of the book was amazing. Without wanting to give any more of the plot away, I can understand why the two women’s stories were told together but I struggled to really feel the link between the two.

Translated from Finnish by Lola Rogers

400 pages, 2009

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13 responses to “Purge – Sofi Oksanen

  1. I really wanted to read this book! So many books to read… arghh!! It deals with a heavy topic I do like a book that is set in Eastern Europe, let me go to my Library catalogue now and put this in my wishlist!

    Thanks for the great revie Tracy!

  2. Jo – I know, so many books to choose from. You know, the thought that I will never get through all the amazing books out there is just too much but helps me be a bit more selective hopefully! Do add this to your wishlist, it’s well worth reading 0:)

  3. I loved this I felt the two tories showed how people deal with guilt ,and how womens roles have changed but in some ways are the same ,I think the trafficing story is one every one needs to read ,to get the brutal nature of this ,all the best stu

    • Stu – I agree very much about the guilt and the importance of both stories – I felt they could have each justified a story on their own but can understand of course why they were told together. Glad you loved it, I always think it is such a pleasure to be able to read books in translation.

  4. This sounds really good, especially since I’m always looking for WWII novels. I haven’t read too much about the Soviet Union, so I’m adding this to my to-read (some day) list. I’ll link to your review on War Through the Generations.

    • Anna – thanks for linking – this would be an excellent book to read for War Through the Generations and to highlight how the effects of war can last a lifetime & exactly that, filter down through the generations. Hope you enjoy it when you read it.

  5. I do hope I can get to this book. Reading something about the effect of a war through generations is something I can empathize with very much. We have just gone through
    a civil war of 3 decades and the effect of it on just two generations is immense.

    • Mystica – I hope you can get to it too. I can’t begin to imagine how it would be to be personally involved in war. I think these books are really important to read and I’m always grateful for the opportunity, especially books in translation.

  6. I picked this one of the shelf and was so glad I did. I found it beautifully written and I couldn’t wait to get back to it. I’ll be recommending this one to my friends!!

    • liontamar – thanks so much for commenting and I’m glad you enjoyed it. I think it’s a book that will leave a lasting impression for sure.

      • I agree, it’s one of those books that will stay with me. It will be one that stands out from the crowd. I’v noticed that I seem to enjoy a lot of European writer’s. The book seemed to have a poetic nature to it even thought the subject matter was very disturbing at times.

  7. Just finishing this book. Incredible read I left the book wanting to find out what happened next. Definitely going to read more from this writer!

    • Kayleigh – It’s fantastic isn’t it when you read something incredible, glad you enjoyed it and hope the next one is just as good! Thanks for taking the time to comment.

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