Last night I finished Arto Paasilinna's humorous book The Year of the Hare (1975). Normally I won't read books that have main characters that are animals because I worry throughout the entire book something awful will happen to the animal. Ever since I read John Steinbeck's The Red Pony and Anna Sewell's Black Beauty as a young teenager I don't trust literature about animals.
As I need to have an opinion of this book by the first week in October I didn't have much choice so I held my nose, closed my eyes (so to speak) and dove in. The fact that it also applies to my Century of Books challenge helped to prod me along as well.
This Finnish author's protaganist is Kaarlo Vatanen, a burned out journalist who is travelling home with a colleague who accidentally hits a hare in the road. Vatanen follows the injured animal into the forest and sees it has a broken leg. He splints the leg and together the two of them disappear into the forest.
His colleague who gets tired of waiting for him drives off, only feeling a bit guilty awhile later. Kaarlo is tired of the world, his life, his job, his wife and the peacefulness of the forest and the attention of the hare seduces him into disappearing.
Thus he begins a series of adventures during the next year, caring for the hare who has very human qualities and is very easy to get extremely attached to.
He goes through a series of places to sleep, sometimes he comes close to losing the hare, he deals with Russian soldiers who take over his cabin he is living in, he falls in love and becomes engaged whilst quite drunk, he helps to fight fires in the forest and wins over policemen. At one time a ski instructor who readily sacrifices animals steals the hare and Vatanen needs to find his beloved hare quick smart.
I found the writing to be direct and the characters well developed and quite visual. I have to say I wanted to finish this book as quickly as possible because the characters meet a great deal of hilarity as well as peril and I just knew this book would end badly.
Was I correct?? Well I won't say. I can't say because I think this is a very enjoyable little fable and I don't want to spoil it for anyone.
I don't think there is any deep hidden meaning in this book outside of how many of us might feel from time to time when bored with our jobs or nothing interesting is happening in our life so why not take off through the beautiful forests with a hare in tow?
It isn't symbolic as Animal Farm is. It is quite a light book most of the time, the scenery is beautiful, there is suspense in it if you love animals the way I do. It can also easily be read in a single sitting.
I would suggest the Northern Hemisphere people curl up in front of a fire one afternoon and enjoy this tale and for those of you anticipating summer in Australia find a good hammock in the sun, pour a glass of white and enjoy this lovely tale.