THE RABBIT BACK LITERATURE SOCIETY by Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen. The Reading Guide

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1 READING GROUP QUESTIONS All of my ideas come from that notebook I don t have any ideas of my own. Maybe none of us do. All we have are the thousand ideas that we stole from the dead boy. The question of whether literature can be truly original, and where inspiration comes from runs throughout the whole book. Do you think the book answers this question? In what other ways does the book question the nature of originality? One of the first things we are told about Ella Milana is that she can t have children. Why do you think the author chose to focus on this aspect of her life? Do you think her defective ovaries are compensated for in other ways? How does the death of Ella s father compare to the death of Oskar Södergran and the disappearance of Laura White? Which did you find more affecting? The book plague infects books, changing their endings. Members of the society are infected by each others lives, and use this influence to write their novels. Do you think contagion in this book is seen as positive or negative? Did you think The Game was sexual, psychological, or both? Ella Milana is a teacher of Literature and Language. How does her love of books and words manifest itself in her search for the truth? Dear budding writers, beloved friends, in the end, you must learn to look at everything as if you weren t even part of the human race. This is Laura White s instruction to the young writers. Do you agree? Do you think the writers in The Rabbit Back Literature Society follow this advice? Martti Winter, Laura White, Mother Snow how might this book have been different if it had been set in summer? What effect does the weather have on the atmosphere and events of the novel? Nine children have been trained to become successful writers from a very young age. Do you think they see themselves as having been damaged or enriched by this?

2 Although Ella Milana is the protagonist, in some ways she is the most opaque of the characters. In the chapter entitled Ella Milana spills she talks about Martti Winter and his appearance, rather than about her own inner life. What do you think this says about her? Can we glean any more information about her from the title of her story, The Skeleton Sat in the Cave, Silently Smoking Cigarettes? Do you think this book is more mystery, thriller or love story? Questions of inheritance and fate run through this book. It emerges that Ella s father wanted to be in the Rabbit Back Literature Society. She is told: Your father had talent, but you ve succeeded where he failed Do you think she has inherited her talent or created it? Do you think the authors talent is of their own making, or a legacy of their upbringing? Laura White, the founder of the Literature Society, disappears before we are introduced to her. How might the book have been different if she had been one of the living characters? Do you think the relationship between Ella and Martti Winter will last? Did you see it coming? Do you believe it? Do you think the book has a happy ending? Does it have a satisfying ending? The book plague changes the endings of books. Do you think the endings of books are important? Would The Rabbit Back Literature Society have been ruined for you if you had known the ending before reading it? How might the book plague have affected this book? Reviewers have compared The Rabbit Back Literature Society to the television series Twin Peaks, Donna Tartt s The Secret History and John Ajvide Lindqvist s Let the Right One In. Do you agree? The End.

3 SELECTED REVIEWS Absurd but believable, sinister but enjoyable, beautiful but disquieting Independent A very grown-up fantasy masquerading as a quirky fable unexpected, thrilling Daily Telegraph Unnerving, enigmatic hints of Let the Right One In and Haruki Murakami s elliptical early science fiction novels Financial Times Genre-defying Metro A unique vein of fantasy-realism unlike anything else you ve ever read... fascinating. And fun SFX Magazine, 5-starred review Charming, chilling and gripping from its very first page Bizarre This clever mystery mixes the small-town surrealism of Twin Peaks with the clandestine society theme of Donna Tartt s The Secret History The List Superbly written chilling as it is beguiling Booktrust It ll be one of the most intriguing and beguiling books you ll read for a long, long time Sci-Fi London It really does work. The ending is just about perfect Beauty in Ruins The Rabbit Back Literature Society is something special Highly recommended Fantastical Librarian

4 ABOUT THE BOOK The Rabbit Back Literature Society is a dark, thrilling, genre-bending and thought-provoking fantasy about buried secrets and the art of writing. In the small Finnish town of Rabbit Back, an elite group of writers are the local celebrities. But when Ella Milana a teacher of literature and language who has only recently returned to her home town is invited to become the tenth member of the Society, she finds that mysteries and unanswered questions surround her fellow writers. The strange disappearance of Laura White, founder of the Literature Society, for example. And the death of the previous tenth member. Ella can t resist the temptation to try to uncover these secrets. As she joins the Society s very strange Game and begins to delve into the histories and relationships of her fellow Society members, she finds that there is even more being hidden here than meets the eye... ABOUT THE AUTHOR Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen, born in 1966, is one of Finland's best-kept secrets. A novelist and short-story writer, he is well known for his fantasy and sci-fi narratives and has twice won the Kuvastaja Fantasy Prize given by Finland's Tolkien Society and four times won the Atorox Award for Fantasy. He teaches Finnish language and literature and is the father of three sons.

5 THE STORY BEHIND THE BOOK Originally, Laura White was a character in a little play I wrote for the pre- Christmas party of my faculty we all studied Finnish language and literature, so it was quite natural to write about writers. Then, many years later, I came to realize that Laura s mystery was to be the very core of my first novel, which I was beginning to write at that point, after several years of writing longish short stories for a certain short story competition of science fiction and fantasy stories. (I was lucky enough to win the first prize four times almost in a row, which was a big help in supporting my family during my studies). At this point I was a Finnish and literature teacher, and I decided to write a book that was both a novel and, in a way, a guide to becoming a writer And I didn't want it to be a fantasy book or a mystery thriller but something new literary fiction including a mixture of many different genre elements with various narrative hooks. After having to read all those old and dusty books that were part of my literature studies, I wanted to write something that is easy and light to read but slow to understand completely. I ended up combining realistic prose and fantasy when I created the small Finnish town of Rabbit Back, where people are more interested in literature than sports, and where this mysterious and world-famous children s author is the centre of the social life of the town. The fantastical elements of the novel for example the changing books are drained from my dreams, which have always been the most important source of my creativity. ADDITIONAL MATERIAL Interview: Pasi talks to TQR Stories Interview: Pasi talks to SFX Article: Pasi s Five Books Everyone Should Read Before they Die (from the Big Issue)

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