2021 releases · fiction

Catch the Rabbit by Lana Bastašić Review

Catch the Rabbit — Restless BooksGoodreads blurb: A moving story about loss, forgetting and female friendship: two women on a road trip across Bosnia head towards a lost brother and a collision with the lies they’ve told themselves about where they’re from.

Sara hasn’t seen or heard from Lejla in years. She’s comfortable with her life in Dublin, with her partner, their avocado plant, and their naturist neighbour. But when Lejla calls and demands she come home to Bosnia, Sara finds that she can’t say no.

What begins as a road trip becomes a journey through the past, as the two women set off to find Armin, Lejla’s brother who disappeared towards the end of the Bosnian War. Presumed dead by everyone else, only Lejla and Sara believed Armin was still alive.

Confronted with the limits of memory, Sara is forced to reconsider the things she thought she understood as a girl: the best friend she loved, the first experiences they shared, but also the social and religious lines that separated them, that brought them such different lives.

In Catch the Rabbit, Lana Bastašic tells the story of how we place the ones we love on pedestals, and then wait for them to fall off, how loss marks us indelibly, and how the traumas of war echo down the years.

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“Another fact is that a road-trip story makes sense only when the travelers, albeit wrongly, believe in reaching the finish line, the journey’s end that will solve all problems and end all misery. There’s no finish line in Bosnia, all roads seem to be equally languid and pointless; they lead you in circles even when it looks like you’re making progress.

This book has been on my TBR for a while, and I am so glad that I finally got around to it, because I really loved this novel. This is translated from the Serbo-Croatian by the author herself, and since I read the original and the translation interchangeably, I can tell you that the translation is great in my opinion.

Lana Bastašić is often compared to Elena Ferrante, and I can totally see the resemblance. I think they both look at class in an interesting, but different way, and they both excel at situating the narrative within a context. While for many the point of convergence for them is the exploration of female friendship, I have to say that while this is the central point for Ferrante, I do not think it’s central for Bastašić. Sure, Catch the Rabbit is a story about friendship, but the friendship is just a smokescreen for the narrator Sara’s complicated relationship with her country and her identity. While the theme of female friendship is strongly present in Catch the Rabbit, the author uses it as a tool to abruptly confront her main character with her motherland and her immigrant experience. Sara is an unreliable narrator, and through her distorted memories, Bastašić inspects how we form memories and how we distort them.

You can’t have a Balkan narrative without exploring war-time trauma, and I think Bastašić does an amazing job of portraying the intricacies and psychological complexities of it. As an ex-pat, Sara is torn from Bosnia and adapts her identity to fit her new setting, but when Lejla, her best friend calls her, Bosnia and her home call her too, and she is forced to confront them, and I think that’s where the crux of Lejla and Sara’s relationship is and I really loved the book for it. It is also refreshing to have a narrative that is dependent on a female friendship since that’s not what is usually explored in fiction from this area. This also relies on other famous narratives (like Alice in Wonderland) and I think Bastašić was ambitious in that endeavor but also quite successful at it. Her prose is also really beautiful and accomplished.

verdict

There was very little that did not work for me in this novel — it veered into too sentimental at times for me, while also being a bit too on the nose with some of its metaphors. With that aside, I genuinely loved this novel (it almost beat out the chicken book) and I could not recommend it more. And since it is Women in Translation month, a perfect excuse for you to pick it up.

4.5

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I would love to hear from you – any thoughts you’d like to share? Let me know!

In the meantime, happy reading

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