When the Doves Disappeared by Sofi Oksanen – Book Review

This book was both extremely good and equally difficult to read. It dealt with a subject matter I had not really given any previous thought to, but am now glad I read this book. In my history studies and further readings as an adult, I have read many books regarding World War II from the German, French, American, British, Polish, Japanese, Chinese and Russian perspectives, but not a single one from the Estonian perspective. This book deals with a married couple living through both the Soviet Occupation of Estonia from 1940-1941, the German Occupation from 1941-1944, and the Soviet Occupation from 1944-1991. The book actually ends in 1966, but Oksanen makes the point that the Soviet Occupation didn’t end until 1991.

In stark relief, the story of the marriage between Juudit and Edgar is portrayed with all its inadequacies. For most of their married lives, Juudit and Edgar reside separately and the animosity they have for each other jumps off the page. Edgar spends the entire book striving to better himself by working first with the Russians, then reinventing himself with a new name and working with the Germans; then he once again changes his name and history in order to again work with the Russians. His work mostly consists of reporting on others in order to gain favor with his superiors.

I really don’t want to give anything away, but Edgar will do anything and everything to better himself with whatever political power is in charge. That includes throwing his nearest and “dearest” under any bus that comes along.

The difficulties I had in reading this book come from the subject matter; I think you would agree that reading any book about a hostile occupation is not pleasant. However, I highly recommend this book, since it is an interesting, well-researched and exceedingly well-written book about a part of history that I had not given much thought to previously. I’m glad that I read it.


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