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When the Doves Disappeared (2012)

by Sofi Oksanen

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Quartet (3)

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3111661,363 (3.64)22
"From the internationally acclaimed author of Purge--a chillingly suspenseful, deftly woven new novel that opens up a little-known yet still controversial chapter of history: the occupation, resistance, and collaboration in Estonia during and after World War II. 1941: In Communist-ruled, war-ravaged Estonia, two men have deserted the Red Army--Roland, a fiercely principled freedom fighter, and his slippery cousin Edgar. When the Germans arrive, Roland goes into hiding; Edgar abandons his unhappy wife, Juudit, and takes on a new identity as a loyal supporter of the Nazi regime... 1963: Estonia is again under Communist control, independence even further out of reach behind the Iron Curtain. Edgar is now a Soviet apparatchik, desperate to hide the secrets of his past life and stay close to those in power. But his fate remains entangled with Roland's, and with Juudit, who may hold the key to uncovering the truth... In a masterfully told story that moves between the tumult of these two brutally repressive eras--a story of surveillance, deception, passion, and betrayal--Sofi Oksanen brings to life both the frailty, and the resilience, of humanity under the shadow of tyranny"--"1941: In Communist-ruled, war-ravaged Estonia, two men have deserted the Red Army--Roland, a fiercely principled freedom fighter, and his slippery cousin Edgar. When the Germans arrive, Roland goes into hiding; Edgar abandons his unhappy wife, Juudit, and takes on a new identity as a loyal supporter of the Nazi regime... 1963: Estonia is again under Communist control, independence even further out of reach behind the Iron Curtain. Edgar is now a Soviet apparatchik, desperate to hide the secrets of his past life and stay close to those in power. But his fate remains entangled with Roland's, and with Juudit, who may hold the key to uncovering the truth... In a masterfully told story that moves between the tumult of these two brutally repressive eras--a story of surveillance, deception, passion, and betrayal--Sofi Oksanen brings to life both the frailty, and the resilience, of humanity under the shadow of tyranny"--… (more)
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» See also 22 mentions

English (6)  Finnish (3)  Swedish (3)  Norwegian (1)  Danish (1)  Spanish (1)  German (1)  All languages (16)
Showing 1-5 of 6 (next | show all)
A tale about a unhappy marriage during the German and Soviet occupation of Estonia, during and after the 2nd world war ( )
  Gunnarf | Jul 4, 2019 |
"The clatter of dishes from the kitchen...the sounds of people who have someone with them as they do their evening chores.All that had been taken from me."

*Disclaimer-Any kind of political comments will be deleted at once.*

You live in a country that suffers, passing from the hands of one oppressor to the other.Armies come as liberators only to turn into tyrants.Then,the other tyrants arrive and remain in power for decades.In the midst of this nightmare,you are imprisoned within yourself, suffocated by a different kind of oppression.You try to be a good wife and in return you receive contempt and cruelty.And then, you happen to fall in love and risk your own life.Not only for the sake of your country but for a chance to live.To feel alive and wanted as a person,as a woman.

‘’I wait every day for the day when they come for me."

This is the situation of Juudit,the main character in Sofi Oksanen's beautiful novel.The writer returns to Estonia and divides the narrative into two decades,the 40s and the 60s.We experience the time of the Nazi rising to authority in the country before the return of the Soviet Army who remained in power until the early 90s.The part of the story set in the 60s is mainly occupied with the struggle of the new generation,the desire of the young people and the university communities for a free,independent, modern Estonia.

This novel has the perfect balance of all Historical Fiction traits and a fully investigated character study of the main heroine,Juudit.In addition,there is a murder mystery- and the solution is revealed at the very end,leaving you shocked- and a research for the fate of an Estonian fighter who is full of secrets.In fact,everyone is full of secrets in this novel.It is an incredibly woven story with many twists and turns and revelations until the end.Do not be afraid of the dual narration.We move back and forth in time but it's not confusing at all.If anything,each part lends more light and a better understanding of the events taking place in each era.

I found the manner in which Oksanen places the action in chapter both captivating and touching.Estonia's name at the headlines changes depending on the current oppressor and there are stamps placed above the titles naming the years.The stamps presents images either related to the Nazis or the Soviets and I looked at them as sheer images of terror,their effect on me was certainly powerful.They're not graphic,not at all,but they carry the bleakest,most terrifying connotations and war doesn't have to be graphic in order to shock you.

The writing is calmer and gentler than Purge.The story itself is calmer but it's not as powerful and heart-gripping as its predecessor.It's a book that stays with you,though, not because of violence and darkness (although you'll find these elements to a certain extent) but because of a woman's struggle to find some meaning in her life.Whether she finds it in the right place is not for us to judge.I admit that the part set during the 60s wasn't so interesting.It dragged quite a bit with Prats' investigation and Evelin's live troubles,but it is necessary for the culmination of the story.

Apart from Juudit-whose character is bound to cause polarized opinions we have Roland, a brave patriot who needs to discover himself.Hellmut,the German officer who falls in love with Juudit and reminded me of Albrecht from Owen Sheers' Resistance. And then,we have Edgar who is despicable,vile,hideous and all sorts of horrible.At this point and after having read Oksanen's three novels translated in English,I feel the need to talk about my main problem with this book and my only issue with Oksanen's work in general.

The characters is the weakness in this novel.The only one that is interesting is Juudit,the others are indifferent and some aren't given enough "book" time to develop.So,I have come to notice that this is a common feature in her novels and especially in Norma.In all three books,there is one, maybe two characters on whose arcs the whole story is supported and the rest move in the periphery of the action being useless and wasting precious time.There's no worse thing than characters who leave you cold,whose name you cannot remember once a little time passes.Still,the stories and the themes Oksanen chooses to present are so strong and so skillfully woven into the action that-for the most part- I can overlook the lack of strong,memorable characters.

If you think that Purge might be too harsh and dark for you,then When The Doves Disappeared is a good equivalent and a suitable read in order to become familiar with Estonia's political situation at the time.To be absolutely Frank,I can't verify how accurate the depiction of the era is and I don't really pay attention to that because I avoid politics like the plague and I know that History is far from objective.In the end,it doesn't matter,in my opinion.This is a book that offers a significant insight into the cravings of the human soul and the way some of us cope with oppression, neglect and the faults (?) of the past. ( )
  AmaliaGavea | Jul 15, 2018 |
Estonia is a small country on the Gulf of Finland that was occupied by the USSR after the First World War, then during World War Two by Germany, and then reverted to Soviet Occupation after the war. Both the USSR and Germany suppressed dissidents and operated surveillance networks to prevent insurrection by nationalists, and both of them took advantage of any individual Estonians who supported their regime to conduct covert operations.

It stands to reason that some Estonians would have welcomed the Germans as liberators, and it’s equally clear that some would have welcomed the return of the USSR. It also stands to reason that while it would be prudent for people of ambition to take advantage of the German Occupation, that this would make life difficult when Germany lost the war and their former overlords returned. Such is the fate of small countries in any battle between great powers, and as in other times and places it was sometimes necessary for people to change identities in order to survive if they had picked the wrong side to support.

And always, with people of ambition in this perilous position of having a past that needs to stay hidden, there will be people from the past with an axe to grind. There is the problem of staying incognito, and the problem of managing anyone who recognises the new identity for what it really is.

This, then, is the problem that Finnish-Estonian author Sofi Oksanen has chosen for When the Doves Disappeared, set in the 1940s under the German Occupation, and then in the 1960s under the Soviets. And it is a textbook example of an author breaking the first rule of fiction: give your characters problems, don’t give your problems to characters.

To read the rest of my review please visit https://anzlitlovers.com/2018/06/27/when-the-doves-disappeared-by-sofi-oksanen-t... ( )
  anzlitlovers | Jun 30, 2018 |
Gave up o it. Too rambling and I didn't want to invest the effort to see how it progressed. ( )
  martinhughharvey | Jul 28, 2015 |
Through three connected characters, Oksanen's novel tells the story of Estonia in WWII as it changes hands from one oppressive occupation to another and back again—first the Soviet Union from 1940-41, then the Germans from 1941-44, and the Soviets once again from 1944 to 1991.
It is a riveting tale of precarious survival in difficult circumstances, and each character, though connected, choses his or her path. Roland, a nationalist, becomes part of an underground movement. His wily cousin Edgar finds ways to ingratiate himself with whomever is in power. Edgar's estranged wife, Juddit, takes up with a German officer.

Of course their stories are more complicated than this, and Oksanen has filled them out well and inextricably imbedded them in an equally three-dimensional wartime Estonian setting. She's added psychological detail and a bit of mystery and suspense. It's easy to see why this was a bestseller in the Nordic countries. This is one of those novels which one escapes into and it's difficult not to feel acutely the precariousness of living in Estonia in this time...how much of who you are do you give away in order to survive? ( )
1 vote avaland | Mar 2, 2015 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Sofi Oksanenprimary authorall editionscalculated
Rogers, Lola M.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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Vi besökte Rosalies grav ännu en gång och lade ner en bukett ängsblommor på den månbelysta gräskullen, vi stod tysta en stund med blommorna mellan oss.
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"From the internationally acclaimed author of Purge--a chillingly suspenseful, deftly woven new novel that opens up a little-known yet still controversial chapter of history: the occupation, resistance, and collaboration in Estonia during and after World War II. 1941: In Communist-ruled, war-ravaged Estonia, two men have deserted the Red Army--Roland, a fiercely principled freedom fighter, and his slippery cousin Edgar. When the Germans arrive, Roland goes into hiding; Edgar abandons his unhappy wife, Juudit, and takes on a new identity as a loyal supporter of the Nazi regime... 1963: Estonia is again under Communist control, independence even further out of reach behind the Iron Curtain. Edgar is now a Soviet apparatchik, desperate to hide the secrets of his past life and stay close to those in power. But his fate remains entangled with Roland's, and with Juudit, who may hold the key to uncovering the truth... In a masterfully told story that moves between the tumult of these two brutally repressive eras--a story of surveillance, deception, passion, and betrayal--Sofi Oksanen brings to life both the frailty, and the resilience, of humanity under the shadow of tyranny"--"1941: In Communist-ruled, war-ravaged Estonia, two men have deserted the Red Army--Roland, a fiercely principled freedom fighter, and his slippery cousin Edgar. When the Germans arrive, Roland goes into hiding; Edgar abandons his unhappy wife, Juudit, and takes on a new identity as a loyal supporter of the Nazi regime... 1963: Estonia is again under Communist control, independence even further out of reach behind the Iron Curtain. Edgar is now a Soviet apparatchik, desperate to hide the secrets of his past life and stay close to those in power. But his fate remains entangled with Roland's, and with Juudit, who may hold the key to uncovering the truth... In a masterfully told story that moves between the tumult of these two brutally repressive eras--a story of surveillance, deception, passion, and betrayal--Sofi Oksanen brings to life both the frailty, and the resilience, of humanity under the shadow of tyranny"--

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