The Brothers by Asko Salhberg
I am embarrassingly late with this review…
Finland, 1809. Henrik and Erik are brothers who fought on opposite sides in the war between Sweden and Russia. With peace declared, they both return to their snowed-in farm. But who is the master?
First Impressions: Wow. I was immediately drawn into the landscape, characters and story. Is the landscape and setting the most important part of this story.
Highlights: I think the isolation and bitingly chilly environment is the star of this novel as it shapes the characters and the action. Even though there are mentions of the nearby village or regional towns they seem incredibly distant even when the characters visit them. I found the rural-town divide very interesting along with the historical context.
This is a novel of two brothers and their cousin but it is no way a purely masculine story. I particularly enjoyed the stories of the women and finding out how they found themselves in their current situations. Despite the brevity, everyone’s story is told which makes it very clever storytelling.
Also – it is a beautiful edition.
If I was an editor: I did think the Farmhand’s story was one revelation too many – the others were more interesting – but it was necessary to the whole story. I think I’m being a little fussy when making this observation!
Overall: A fantastic epic saga that the author has successfully restricted to 112 pages. Now that’s restraint! For lovers of Burial Rites and Wolf Winter.