cover image The Colonel’s Wife

The Colonel’s Wife

Rosa Liksom, trans. from the Finnish by Lola Rogers. Graywolf, $16 trade paper (168p) ISBN 978-1-64445-008-6

Liksom’s brief, haunting novel (after Compartment No. 6) finds an elderly Finnish woman in her final days, reflecting on a lifetime as both a victim and perpetrator of cruelty. The unnamed narrator was born into a rural and staunchly right-wing Finnish family between the world wars. After the loss of her father, she is drawn to a peer of his, the intimidating and powerful Colonel. Though he is 30 years older, their love affair and eventual marriage blossom in the days leading up to WWII—together, the narrator and the Colonel visit Germany and witness the horrors of the Third Reich, host Heinrich Himmler for dinner and a sauna, and eventually meet their beloved Hitler at a party. Outside of their political scheming, though, the couple also spend time in the deep, untouched natural world of their native Finland, exploring and cherishing that which is unspoiled by war. The narrator’s reminiscences are frank and unadorned, but still moving; her descriptions of the torture she witnesses by the Nazis, and of that she endures by her husband, are made more chilling by their lack of sentimentality. Liksom’s novel memorably combines transportive prose and her narrator’s stark perspective. (Nov.)