The Brothers, By Asko Sahlberg (trs by Emily and Fleur Jeremiah)

Brooding, darkand intense – as you'd expect

Brandon Robshaw
Sunday 05 February 2012 01:00

At only 122 pages, this is a short but intense novel set in icy, rural Finland, 1809.

Erik and Henrik are two brothers who fought on opposite sides in the Russian-Swedish war, and have returned to their mother's snowed-in farmhouse. Erik is married to Anna, the woman Henrik loved. Their power-struggle is complicated by their scheming cousin, Mauri, whom they both despise but who is not as ineffectual as he seems. A multiple narrative told in turns by each of the main characters, this is heavy with foreboding, and in the latter half violence and revelations burst forth. The writing is spare but intensely visual. Reading it is like spending two hours in the company of a brooding, atmospheric, Scandinavian late night movie.

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