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  • Writer's pictureThe Bossy Bookworm

Review of The End of Drum-Time by Hanna Pylväinen

Pylväinen's novel explores the cooperation and conflict among cultures in a mid-nineteenth century community in the Arctic Circle, immersing the reader in a cold, unforgiving climate and in the long-held traditions of its varied characters.

...she wondered, was this what love was, to persist when you didn't want to, to try for patience another time....

In Hanna Pylväinen's The End of Drum-Time, it's 1851 in the Arctic Circle, and a small community of reindeer herders, a minister's family and his flock of followers, and a local shop owner whose greatest profit comes from liquor are all trying to get through the winter.

In their remote location in the Scandinavian tundra, they're each carving out lives shaped by the unforgiving snow and cold.

Their cultures are sometimes mysteries to each other, and at times conflict greatly with others' traditions. I was fascinated by Pylväinen's explorations of how the old ways and new ways pushed against each other, as did the Finn, Lapp, Sámi, Swedish, and Russian influences of the region. Religion is a particular conflict in the novel, with the Christian characters proving themselves to be naïve, rigid, judgmental, greedy, vain, and foolhardy.

The men of the story are singularly focused on their livelihoods--they're capable of physical doggedness and of persistence. The reindeer herders, for example, hold immeasurable knowledge of the habits of their animals and of the weather and terrain around them.

But the male characters are largely disappointments to the women, who wish they had actually earned the confidence they often exude; wish they were reliable and emotionally strong; and wish the men allowed for gray areas and were open to understanding nuances.

The men abandon, bluster and condescend, are weak to temptation, plod along in the face of destruction, and wait too long to act. The women frequently see the clear way but are usually powerless to effect change, so the men's missteps and ineptitude are at the heart of each disaster in the book.

The End of Drum-Time was intriguing and kept me interested throughout; it was brutal and frustrating (these men--!) but its setting was beautifully crafted.

Do you have any Bossy thoughts about this book?

I read The End of Drum-Time as my March book club book.

For more cold-setting stories, check out my Greedy Reading List Six Books with Cold, Wintry Settings to Read by the Fire.


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