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When the Doves Disappeared (2012)

When the Doves Disappeared is a riveting, chillingly relevant new novel of occupation, resistance, and collaboration in Eastern Europe.

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  • Oksanen masterfully constructs her world; paranoia and fear drip like sweat from the pages.
    — Me Naiset (Finland)
  • When the Doves Disappeared is powerful and convincing. Oksanen lives up to all the expectations… Oksanen unites political history, micro history, and fiction in an intelligent way. She explores how human kind adapts to ever-changing circumstances.
    — MTV3 (Finland)
  • The plot develops like a spy thriller about incredible personal relationships… The novel is characterized by the powerful portrayal of the spirit and aesthetics of three decades. The uncertainty, the desperation, as well as the atmosphere of ideals and selfishness are baffling. The trivial betrayals adopt human dimensions. The illustration of urban and rural areas is physically exact. /.../ As in Purge the mysteries take on a new meaning in the final pages of the book. The personal relations conceal truly poignant surprises. /.../ If she wanted, Oksanen could easily devote herself to writing thrillers. The intrigue of this novel is almost fastidiously intricate.
    — Demari (Finland)
  • Sofi Oksanen's new novel was worth waiting for… As in her previous works, the personal is strongly political also here. The individual, who is torn in the crossfire between different ideologies, crouches in the wings that conceal secrets, shame and fear. Although certain decisions can have terrifying consequences, they are not necessarily a result of evil. A betrayal can be the only route to survival. Oksanen is a master at rendering people in precisely those circumstances.
    — Kaleva (Finland)
  • “Sofi Oksanen is the biggest Nordic author of the moment… What a remarkable writing ability this young Finnish woman possesses… She writes with a prose that is constantly alive and pulsating without for a second losing the perfect pitch. Allehanda (Sweden)
    — Allehanda (Sweden)
  • With the novel When the Doves Disappeared, Finnish-Estonian author Sofi Oksanen demonstrates that she belongs in the premier league of literature. She was the worthy recipient of the 2010 Nordic Council Literature Prize for Purge, and now she’s back with a novel that is if possible even more grandiose, in terms of theme, literary composition, and dramaturgy. /…/ It is Oksanen’s talent for finding convincing voices to carry the narration that makes this novel such a powerful and moving story. In many ways it can be said to have a kinship with the great Russian classics, as a story with many layers. At the same time this novel is so modern in its emphasis of the documentary subject matter and in its analytical attitude to the historical truth. /…/ The book also has some clear thriller-like qualities. The story offers a lot of suspense and many surprising twists. Certain mysterious disappearances and deaths are not explained until the end of the story. /…/ Sofi Oksanen presents a large cast of characters, that all contribute to providing this grandiose story with necessary intimacy and sensuality. It is the human cost in the shadow of war and tyranny that is Sofi Oksanen’s concern. And in When the Doves Disappeared she demonstrates more clearly and convincing than ever before what a unique literary talent she possesses.
    — Dagsavisen (Norway)
  • A complex, captivating and challenging novel. /.../ Oksanen portrays a world where truth has been reduced to a commodity and is the realm of powerful rulers. /…/ Oksanen's skill as a storyteller and language accommodator is obvious, while the plot strands intersect each other in a intricate pattern.
    — Turun Sanomat (Finland)
  • When the Doves Disappeared is an engaging and extraordinarily well-written novel about a dark time. But it is also an important reminder to read every historic description, including this one, critically. That the novel succeeds in rendering the difficulties of historiography in such an unsentimental way, without losing its power as a work of fiction, makes it particularly fascinating.
    — Svenska Dagbladet (Sweden)
  • Sofi Oksanen writes with an artistically impeccable mix of raw brutality and an emotional wealth of detail. As a reader, one is drawn into the story by the text’s transmission of strong emotions: rage, disgust, grief and compassion. But above all it is fear that constantly trembles over each page. The plot creates an atmosphere like that of le Carré.
    — Östgöta-Correspondenten (Sweden)
  • A courageous, important and very good book. A book about how history and politics completely occupies people’s lives, shapes and destroys them.
    — Aftonbladet (Sweden)
  • Suspenseful, moving, horrifying, and very skillfully written.
    — Helsingborgs Dagblad (Sweden)
  • Sofi Oksanen’s new novel shows what fiction can be when it is at its very best… In terms of style, [this novel] is a step up for Oksanen… Oksanen has written several dazzling portraits of women in different kinds of patriarchal and economic subordination, women whose vulnerability is obvious but who are never denied the right to be more than just victims. Juudit is Oksanen’s perhaps most complex character so far – difficult to like but easy to understand. Also the plot is Oksanen’s most intricate so far. The threads between the three main characters Edgar, Juudit and Roland are so skillfully woven across multiple time frames that the entire picture doesn’t emerge until after the last page. Oksanen could without a doubt write an utterly brilliant whodunit. However, there are innumerable reasons to rejoice in the fact that she has greater ambitions than that. At its best, fiction acts as an alternative historiography, which humanizes and adds nuance to a time and place, and which makes us question given truths. When the Doves Disappeared does just that, both in practice and in theory.
    — Sydsvenskan (Sweden)
  • Sofi Oksanen has spoiled me with her smart and sharpened prose, which at its best reaches in under the ribs and with ruthless clarity points out where it hurts the most, in mankind and in society.”
    — Göteborgs-Posten (Sweden)
  • Sofi Oksanen has clearly done her research. In her new novel the times of war and occupation feel real, they look real, and the persons are real – some even literally.
    — Helsingin Sanomat (Finland)
  • The unsolved murder of Rosalie, which leads to fateful choices, forms the run-up to the skillfully constructed intrigue that keeps the reader captivated and reveals new plot turns till the very last page. … The novel is thoroughly armed with background facts, and grippingly recounts the two occupations; the cruelty and the atmosphere, the Estonians' hope for independence, the expectations and disappointments. Apart from the greater historic strokes, rural and urban life during the two time periods is depicted convincingly and in detail.
    — Suomen Kuvalehti (Finland)
  • At first it seems Oksanen is turning to the new literary movement that uses the blueprint form to reflect the horrors of the Second World War, a movement in which Jonathan Littell's The Kindly Ones is a corner stone. But the further one travels in the novel, the more clearly emerges the inevitable Franz Kafka's model: the center of power always gets away, no matter how many times the mutilated man manages to slip across from the side of the trampled on to the ones who trample. /…/ With overwhelming power Oksanen shows how devastating the official lie and the silence is to individuals as well as to personal relationships and the country as a whole.
    — Helsingin Sanomat (Finland)
  • Great books always contain many layers. Oksanen's novel can therefore be read as social commentary, love story or psychological drama. /…/ On one level it is also a thriller where the tension and the mysteries increase page by page, and the questions that arise are not answered until the very end. /…/ Oksanen has written a magnificent and gripping novel that through its intensity irremediably sweeps the reader along into a world that prevails also during the pauses from reading as well as long after having finished the book.
    — Ilkka (Finland)
  • When the Doves Disappeared is without a doubt the greatest landmark yet in Oksanen's production, a pure masterpiece. … Oksanen writes about this historically dynamic but humanitarianly tragic double occupation with the analytical sense of a historian paired with the passion of a novelist. The combination is groundbreaking. … Purge was only a prelude to this carefully and dedicatedly developed masterpiece… Oksanen skillfully weaves violent world history into a number of individual portraits. In the occupied Estonia that is depicted in the novel there are capable men and women, but Oksanen doesn't merely render them as exciting stereotypes: she always tries to achieve real, whole people.
    — Kauppalehti (Finland)