Year of the Bull

Joan Tate, Editor, Oscar Parland, Author
Joan Tate, Editor, Oscar Parland, Author Peter Owen Publishers $33.95 (200p) ISBN 978-0-7206-0807-6
Reviewed on: 12/02/1991
Release date: 12/01/1991
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Prize-winning Swedish author Parland narrates events of a tumultuous 1918, between WW I and the Russian Revolution, from the viewpoint of six-year-old Riki in this strong, intensely imaginative novel. Barricaded on a Finnish farm in lovely, ghost-haunted countryside, along with parents, aunts, uncles and godlike Grandmother--whose thundered warnings from vengeful biblical texts create a frightening childhood mythology--Riki confuses Baal, devourer of children, with Bull, the lordly animal who bellows and rampages in a nearby field. Parland suggests the wartime brutality through Bull and the deaths of helpless creatures. A boy Riki's age drowns despite the dramatic rescue efforts of grownups. A pet pig prophetically named Jonah is slaughtered by Grandmother's decree, driving Kirsti, the maid who coddled him, to delirium and treachery: she invites Red soldiers to stomp through the house and pillage, then laughingly rides off with them. Entrapped baby mice and a slain pet bird reflect the overall violence, eliciting a fierce juvenile anguish, and Bull meets a terrible end. Gravely and sometimes whimsically, Riki imposes his own sense on a world where the pain of famine and the redness of spilled blood seem omnipresent. (Nov.)
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