Books in Translation, #1: Purge, by Sofi Oksanen

PurgePurge by Sofi Oksanen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was my first purchase made for this year’s reading goals. I don’t remember how it caught my eye that it was translated, in the used section of my local bookstore, or why I felt compelled to buy it even though it’s suspense, and suspense isn’t typically my genre. It wasn’t until after I got it home that I noticed it was blurbed by bookslut.

While this book, set in Estonia, is shaped by political events spanning multiple changes of regime, it is a story of much more personal suspense. As many have noted, Purge is the perfect title for this slowly unravelling story. Through flashbacks, two narrators, and intertwining storylines, we see purge after purge on a variety of scales. How communities purge themselves of oppressors thrown off during a regime change, and how that slowly trickles down to punishing anyone who did better under the old regime than you, how people thus punished try to purge themselves, their homes, their relationships of anything that might cause suspicion, how some, purged of their homeland, are also purged of their voices, and the hollow lives that go on around such absences.

There is horror in this book, around the way such upheavals affect the lives of women. When stripped of our community, our humanity, a woman’s body is just another thing to be punished, to be bought and sold. To be purged.


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