Ok, I’m first to admit that The Rabbit Back Literature Society isn’t the easiest possible book to understand completely. That’s how I wanted it to be. Demanding. Same goes with our lives, and literature is supposed to reflect different aspects of life. There is no final truth about human life available, only great number of different theories, and in my opinion it is a good thing.
Some books can be read without paying them too much attention. Some can’t. I wrote TRBLS to be easy to read but at the same time it’s a literary riddle that can be (mostly) solved, but only if you read it carefully enough.
In case you read my novel and still don’t know what ever happened to Laura White or what’s the deal with Oskar, here are some tips for you:
About Laura White:
Read carefully pages 51 (the Creatureville passage), pages 70 – 71 (why is Laura White late?), pages 79 – 80 (what’s is the matter with Laura?), page 86 (white Renault in the woods), page 89 (words of the police spokesman), page 140 (what Mother Snow says about Dampish), page 151 (a biography of Laura White), pages 172 – 173 (Creatureville), page 186 (the bee), page 192 (Laura’s line), page 240 (Laura’s headache – and what causes it…), page 276 (white Renault again – and how it ended up in woods), page 288 (the beginning of the unfinished novel), 292 (Aura’s insight), pages 300 – 303 (Aura spills), pages 312 – 314 (Doctor Jansson’s story), pages 323 – 324 (how Ella plans to write about Laura), page 331 (the beginning of the unfinished novel as Laura’s confession – this really explains everything about Laura White, in one way or another.)
About Oskar’s notebook:
at first there are two alternative possibilities. Read pages 33 (about the nature of remembering) and 119 (the book plague). But finally there’s only one left – read page 247 (When we listened to him read them…) and page 343 (There is a funny anecdote…).
read page 271 (…they’d lost their child…) and page 162 (about phantoms and guilt).
35 kommenttia artikkeliin ”TIPS TO UNLOCK THE SECRETS OF THE RABBIT BACK LITERATURE SOCIETY”
Just finished reading The Rabbit Back Literature Society, and just wanted to say that I thought it was completely wonderful. I’ve been totally addicted to it this week, reading it through all my lunch breaks and just had to stay up until I finished the final page last night. I went through many different emotions throughout the book, and it just kept surprising me. Reading this post was very interesting, as I feel I’m not 100% sure what happened to Laura White, but when I pick it up again (which no doubt will happen soon) I’m going to try and take in every detail. I hope your writing is going well, and really look forward to becoming familiar with the rest of your work. Thank you for such a brilliant experience.
Dear Alexandra, thank you so much for this comment – writers are always happy when having this kind of sweet messages from happy readers!
I really enjoyed reading this. Many a time I couldnt stop reading to find out what would be revealed next. Like Alexandra I’m not sure exactly how to interpret Laura white, creatureville, and the book club. I have some theory’s. May I send them to you. I would like to know if I was right or close.
Mark, plese do – you can send your therories as reply to this reply if you like, it’s always interesting to learn about reader’s thoughts and interpretations…! And thank you for your comment!
I have come to the conclusions that either Laura had died in the car accident when she crashed into a tree and her spirit lived on through the mythological creatures. The other possibility is that Laura is in a coma and the society is all part of her hallucinations. I had wondered if the emporor rat refered to either Ella’s father Paavo with the coment from marjatta that his unkempt hair looked rat like, or Ingrid because of the rat she found in a box and buried, and the way she acts as if in charge of the society. Also wondered if doctor jansson is related to martti’s friend Pekka
Laura might have died at some point of her life, you have a point there, but if that is the case, it happened when she was a child – that drowning accident, you know: she has this haunting memory of seeing a girl (Laura herself) stepping on the thin ice, seen from below the ice… And that’s the key to understand why Laura disappears after thinking about that memory of hers…
Hm… Unlike the other commentators, I feel much more like my theories of Laura White align with your hints above, I think. And if you are interested in exuberant fan theories, I’d love to, aheh, spill them (I realize that’s not quite an accurate use of the word in context). But one thing bugs me: Is the crash of the Renault in any way related to the crash that killed Oskar? It seems to make the shape of significance: Two car crashes, one involving Laura in an uncharacteristic frenzy, one killing her ’star pupil.’ One in ’72, and I think in June, and the other definitely in June.
Further… the relationship between gnomes (in a place where, it seems, spirits are eager to take on human bodies) and an old, injured man’s later years, reminds me of the origins of Laura White, in a way, but I can’t quite find a map to it.
In short – a very good book, and one I am enjoying puzzling over.
Sorry for delay, but I’m trying to give some kind of answer, finally: those two car accidents probably are not connected to each other. A car crash is just a good way to kill characters… And about that Renault: it’s more about what Laura is, what kind of being could drive a car in the middle of the woods that way. But Laura is a mystery, also to herself, so I guess there are no answers, just different theories, some of them more believable than others. And yeah: young Laura almost drowned in that wintery pond in the woods – or maybe she did drown and something (a water spirit maybe?) took her body and tried to become her…
Water spirit theory makes sense to me. That would explain why she didn’t pay attention to men, why she would enjoy looking at paintings of herself so much as well as the ability to produce bees or drive a car in the forest. Thank you for that idea! I’ve just finished reading the Czech translation and I really like your book. I’ve already bought Harjukaupungin salakäytävät (in Czech https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/34332404-magick-pr-vodce-m-stem-pod-pahorkem) and I’m looking forward to reading it 🙂 Cheers, Alena
Dear Mr. Jaaskelainen, thank you for the amazing experience when reading your novel. I liked the book a lot and I am genuinly looking forward to reading it again after learning the mystery of the tenth member´s notebook 🙂 Could I ask you for a favour? I really liked the Czech translations of the names of the characters in the book. Do you think you could send me their names in Finnish? I will not understand it but I would like to see and compare what they sound like 🙂 Thank you very much.
Dear lostsoul2015, thank you – it’s always a pleasure to know that my book was found by an approving reader! About those names: I haven’t had the Czech translation yet, so I don’t know how the names are translated but here’s some of the Finnish names:
Laura Lumikko (the disappearing children’s author)
Martti Talvimaa (that writer with too big appetite and fear of dogs)
Ingrid Kissala (the librarian, Martti’s childhood sweetheart)
Ella Milana (the protagonist with beautifully curving lips)
Paavo Emil Milana (her father)
Aura Ahlqvist alas Aura Jokinen (scifi writer)
For now, I don’t actually remember too many of those names I used in that book, but these were the most important ones.
Thank you very much, I really appreciate it. I liked the book a lot. I am really looking forward to reading it again one day. I will try to follow your manual to get the answers. I hope that the numbers of pages will be the same in the Czech edition of the book. I was enjoying the journey to find the answers but in the end they were not important for me.
I found the book very funny. I am not sure though that my feelings about it were correct. But I really enjoyed Ella´s sarcasm (well, not only hers – Ingrid Kissala was also excellent at this point). It was really great.
Are you really a fan of vampires? 🙂
Thank you once again for your nice response.
Regards, Lost Soul from the Czech Republic.
Well, probably the numbers of pages are different in the Czech edition – and because I don’t speak Czech, I won’t be able to give you the accurate page numbers, either.
I started to have quite scary vampire dreams when I was 5, and at the age of 11 I found a way to beat them in my dreams: I became one of them. And I have always loved vampire comics, books and movies – and of course Buffy the Vampire Slayer tv series by Joss Whedon. But these glimmering Twilight clowns… no thank you!
Just finished your book. Three day read. Very enjoyable. Thank you. I heard about it from The AV Club and read your tips comment and am glad that your tips to understand it are pages to re read, well played, sir.
Thank you, Gabriel! I’m glad you enjoyed!
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Hello. I too just finished your book and stopped by to tell you how much I enjoyed it, and how much I am looking forward to your next work. I flew through it, enjoying every bit of the journey. I wish I had some brilliant insight into what it all ”means,” but I’m not sure it matters (and I am not sure there is one, overarching meaning in any event). I very much agree with what lostsouls says above: ”I was enjoying the journey to find the answers but in the end they were not important for me.” Spot on.
Thanks for your comment, Chris! Hopefully my other books will soon be translated into English – it remains to be seen.
Te escribo desde Venezuela. La buena literatura lo es en cualquier idioma, época o circunstancia. Gracias a tu libro aprendo a ser más tolerante y celebro que tanto en la vida como en los buenos libros… Nada es definitivo. Ese es el reto de la vida, siempre cambiante… Para encontrar libros como el tuyo, para leer! Además, es toda una novedad que se traduzcan los apellidos, le da un toque original al libro.
I write from Venezuela. Good literature is good literature no matter where or how. Because of your book I learn to be more comprehensive to others. I celebrate that in books and life nothing is definitely. Everything changes everytime. That’s why is good to be alive, is good to read… And find books like your book! Besides, translating names is great! Original ! 😉
Thanks, Marialcira – it’s thrilling to know that my books have found readers from Venezuela, too!
I wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed your gem of a book. I’m also still trying to figure out what happened, with a few minor, non-fleshed out theories. I would be interested in going back and re-reading the pages that you listed below, but I’m guessing they are from the original Finnish edition. I have the English edition, in Nook. I don’t suppose you have the pages that correspond to this book, do you? Regardless, I’m excited more from you.
Thank you, Joshua – oh no, those page numbers are naturally from the English edition!
Got it. I think that Nook reorders the pages, unfortunately. I’m going to see if I can’t find a friend who has the ”physical edition”. Thanks!
Paluuviite: Review | The Rabbit Back Literature Society by Pasi Ilmari Jaaskelainen | Art and Soul
Not sure if I am right or not (not that it matters since the book and its meaning became mine from the moment I read it, as Umberto E. would agree), but I feel the need to comment in order to find out where does the book finish and I begin :).
Laura – died when she was a girl. Something (we heard the myth about drowning) got into her. Therefore, she was always somebody else trying to understand and fill her soul (spilling for invented in order to fill her in, her books were connecting her world with the reality; the Society was her way to learn, to search..). She couldn’t play piano after the accident because she didn’t know how. It wasn’t her. ”Laura” drove into the woods in order to get back to what she was, by the only possible way (in her belief), dying. The night she disappeared she tried to confess her crime, and that’s the time she got liberated. ”Laura” is the Rat.
Ella – destined to be the spectator, the witness. I was wondering why would you insert and constantly repeat such a tasteless detail as her lips, but then, it occured to me that she is the ”fish”, the witness from the water. Not literally, though. Again, not being able to have children – doesn’t mean a thing – she got to be the Mother Snow via the Society and pulling the members together, saving and guiding them, not Laura (I am least confident about this idea :D)
Oskar – why would ”Laura” be so interested in a kid who won’t be able to spill anything into her? Because Oskar is like herself, he fills himself with the books he reads and imitates the real life, creates symbols the way she creates the creatures. He is outsider, a bare visitor to this realm, like most of the autistic kids are . His influence on the others is interesting because the real authors were led to think that spilling makes their work, but it’s not true. The author is the creator. Although most of the methodology about writing in the book is good and true, the creation is not happenening because of some mythological notebook with ideas. You as a writer know it. Also, if you one day sit next to my coffee table in a caffee in Prague and ear drop my thoughts, those thoughts and my gestures won’t make your book – but you. Oskar’s death was more as a paravan for the real mistery and served nicely in your theory of writing. (although, when thinking again, his death might have inspired Laura to drive that car – mimicking the way he escaped the nuisance of the reality)
There are other pieces that came together, but these are the main ones (the plague as well, but have not time to get into it).
I might be miles away from your initial ideas, but would be nice to hear if I got at least close? Wouldn’t be glad if I was interperting myself only via these pages.
P.S. To be honest, I didn’t like the book during the reading phase, it seemed too simple, too many ideas thrown one after another, without proper literary and imaginative connection, just as the plague in the library. But, after finishing, Laura made me get behind its surface. It’s one of those books that become beautiful only after you lived them fully.
Looking forward to the next piece.
Jela, thank you so much for your great analysis! I especially like what you said about Laura – you got it right, I think, at least your thoughts about Laura are very similar to my intentions. To be honest, I don’t remember book well enough to evaluate if you are on the right track with Oskar, but your explanation sounds quite legit. I guess I tried to say something about how important it is to know your classics if you want to write something new – and Oskar is my way to make the kids of the Society to study the classics without knowing it themselves. Also they think that Oskar, a kid, has written those passages and it makes them more ambitious as writers than they would have been without Oskar among them. I don’t know why Laura was interested in Oskar, but your explanation sounds quite convincing to me. I haven’t read my first novel once since it was printed in 2006 and I have real difficulties remembering it, but no can do: like many other writers, I’m unable to read my own works…
About Ella: I guess she wants to find a new meaning for her life because it won’t be like she probably used to imagine, and becoming a writer is her way to do it. Describing her lips is one of those things you just do when creating a character; I think most people really evaluate themselves in order to find something beautiful in themselves because most of us want to feel good about ourselves. Especially when we feel insecure. I wrote my thesis about how writers describe the physical appearance of their characters. The results surprised me: for example a certain female writer only described the feet and genitals of one of her important male characters, nothing else. But I didn’t notice it until I began to study it closely.
As you wisely said, the story really is yours to interpret, but let me just say I didn’t mean Ella to be the Mother Snow. Mother Snow is the lighter side of Laura White and The Rat Emperor is the hidden truth about her – the truth she tries to deny until she writes those words about a girl stepping on ice.
Anyway, Jelena,I really enjoyded your analysis, thanks again for it!
best Pasi I J
First of all, I enjoyed The Rabbit Back Literature Society very much – I read it all in one day and it was intense and memorable.
You said in an earlier post that you would be happy to hear readers’ theories, so here goes!
My theory is that Laura White was responsible for the car crash that killed Oskar, and that she did it out of spite. In my theory, she was completely unfamiliar with the books which Oskar quotes and, like the children, assumed that these beautiful passages of literature were all coming from his imagination. When she found out the truth through some chance encounter, she felt cheated and humiliated. She used her own psychic energy to cause the crash, but also drew on the children’s own emotions: the hostility towards him which they feel because of his autism which they don’t understand, and the jealousy of his ”genius”. My support for this interpretation comes from the passage where Silja Saaristo explains to Ella that before Oskar died, Laura White asked the children to write a story in which something bad happens to a member of the society (stirring up all the psychic energy against him – she must have know that he was the most likely victim for just about everyone’s stories) and that after his death Silja used to wake up screaming ”murder, murder, he was murdered” – subconsciously aware of the truth. Also the fact that Laura was definitely involved in one car crash with supernatural elements, which makes us immediately want to make a link to the other. In this interpretation, it is poignant and ironic that Oskar’s mother naively thanked Laura for allowing Oskar into her circle and treating him as a normal child. It is a while since I read the book, so if I have missed some detail which throws my theory out, please break it to me gently!
Thank you for writing the book,
Best wishes, Lucy
thank you for your message. It’s always a pleasure to know someone out there read my book and enjoyed it! Thank you for your theory, too. To be honest, I never suspected Laura White of killing Oskar – I always thought it was just an accident. I also assumed that Laura was aware of the fact that Oskar cited all those great works as they were his own writings and she did this deliberately in order to make other kids envy him and force themnselves to develop as writers more than they would otherwise had done. But your theory is as good as mine. I never learned to know Laura White that well. She always remained as a mystery to me, too.
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I’m glad I found this website because I just finished reading TRBLS and I loved it. Frankly, I haven’t been reading as much lately as I’d like to so it was really refreshing to read again. Your book had an incredibly inspiring effect on me because I always wanted to be a writer (what a cliché right) and I used to write a lot when I was younger (that’s why it was so interesting to read the flashbacks of what the literature society used to be). I’d do anything to be in such a society as a kid! I also loved the concept of the Game (hope that’s how it’s called in English) and realized how much we can learn from other people. One of the characters says in the book that if we were to only get inspiration from ourselves it wouldn’t last for more than a few books and that’s something I never thought about even though it now seems obvious looking back. The idea of having a notebook where you write your ideas and findings inspired me so much that I finally found a use for a beautiful leather notebook somebody gave me as a gift years ago. I’m now determined to carry it with me and maybe, just maybe I’d once collect enough ideas to actually write something.
Also, a funny story to make you feel proud of your book:
Before I read it myself I was getting TRBLS as a gift for my sister not knowing much about the book and most certainly not knowing I was about to get the book as a gift TOO. When I walked into the bookstore I asked a young lady shop assistant if they had a copy of TRBLS. I wish you could have seen her reaction. She sighed almost theatrically and then after a short pause started praising the book. ”What a beautiful book – it changed my life! I’m speechless… have you, sir, read other books from ’him’?” as she kept talking she almost danced for the book in what must have been an ecstatic moment of her life. I felt like an idiot when I had to tell her I never even heard about you but I’m confident anyone could win her heart if he entered that store and asked for TRBLS saying he’s getting his second copy.
Anyway, there’s already a copy of Secret Passages in a Hillside Town on my desk and I’m anxious to dive into another one of your stories so I got to go!
Sorry, I drifted off the topic, this was a theorycrafting post, after all, hope that’s okay. It’s still too fresh in my mind to start creating my own theories but it’s not leaving anytime soon.
thank you so much for your message and especially for your little story – it brightened my day! And if you are ever to meet that lady shop assistant with so extremely excellent taste for books, give her my love!
Dear Pasi, do you still have these hints in Finnish somewhere (with the Finnish page numbers)? I know you used to have a Finnish blog too but I cannot seem to find it anymore. I found them in another book blog but I’d ofc rather link directly to you. I love the fact you gave us readers these hints! It makes the book so much more special and really opened my eyes to some things.
Hi Melody! Yeah, I let my old Finnish blog go, it’s not online anymore.
Hello. I just finished reading Rabbit Back and was completely spellbound. The mystery was so enticing and the mix of the fantastical alongside reality just sucked me into this world. It’s really inspired me to try and write some stories myself! That’s the sign of a good book. And I can’t wait to re-read those passages you suggested to try and uncover some more secrets.
I had a couple of questions if you don’t mind. First, I was interested in your choice of ’main’ characters (Ella, Laura, Ingrid) being mostly female (apart from Martii of course). What have you write from a female perspective? Do you think this added something to the story?
Second, have you ever thought about film/TV adaptations of it? In my mind I could visualise the whole thing as a Wes Anderson movie all the way through!
Thank you for your fascinating book.
thank you so much for your message!
About those female characters you mentioned: that’s a good question! I guess that in a way, as a writer and as a man, I find female psyche more interesting compared to male psyche. Because I’m male, there is naturally more to explore for me in that direction – and I know this is a somewhat stupid simplification – female minds are probably more complex for several different reasons. Also, I have had most of my deep and really interesting discussions with women. Women are more willing to talk about personal stuff than men who for several reasons often learn not to let their guard down.
Some readers have complained that they don’t find my female characters real or convinging but actually all of my female characters are based on real people, in a way – not totally, of course, I don’t want to face any legal consequenses, but psychologically.
And yes, probably every writer dreams of film adaptations, and actually there are some film people in US who are trying to start something, but as you may know, it takes time and most often nothing happens in the end. Also there has been some Finnish filmmakers who have shown interest towards filming this first novel of mine, but funding is always a problem, and so far nothing has happened.