Book Review: Absolute Sunset
Author: Kata Mlek
Publisher: Kata Mlek
Number of Pages: 240
My Rating: 4
Summary from Goodreads.com:
Among the crumbling and stained apartments of post-communist Poland, a malevolent force torments a young girl with premonitions of suffering and death, but offers her a choice. She can sit by and watch as her loved ones are killed in increasingly unlikely and gruesome accidents. Or she can play the raven’s game: solve his riddles, unlock the meaning of her premonitions, and warn people before it’s too late.
Will the raven play by the rules? Or is she just another of his victims, the slowest kill of all?Already a best-seller in Poland, Absolute Sunset is now available in English for the first time in a professional, edited translation. For fans of dark psychological thrillers.
Warning: Absolute Sunset is an intense novel, with serious themes including mental illness and abuse. Not appropriate for young or sensitive readers.
This book seriously messed with my head. There were many times while reading that I wanted to slam the book shut… but I couldn’t tear myself away. It was the darkest and most disturbing thing I have ever read and I’m still not really sure how I feel about that.
The author of Absolute Sunset, Kata Mlek, reached out to me requesting a book review when she saw I enjoyed Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn. Always in the mood for a good suspense novel, I eagerly agreed. When I first began this story, I hadn’t really read or heard much about it. But, if you are familiar with Sharp Objects at all, you know how gory and twisted it was. Within the first chapter of this novel, however, I soon realized that this book was much, much darker.
The summary of this book states that the main character, Hanka, just a child in the beginning, is chased in her dreams by a raven. This ominous bird doesn’t simply give her nightmares, but rather gives her premonitions of violent and tragic events that will take place. It is up to her to solve the raven’s riddles and try to prevent them. There is SO much more to the story than this though so please don’t be fooled into thinking this will be a happy-go-lucky mystery with a neat plot and ending.
The story essentially follows Hanka throughout her life and shows some of the horrible things she has to deal with, whether it be an alcoholic, abusive mother or a kind father who cares but doesn’t do enough. Dark and morbid situations unfold one right after the other and you never quite get ahead of them enough to be able to predict them. They are extremely descriptive and horrifying and will haunt you long after you stop reading. This book is not for the sensitive or the easily disgusted.
As an American reader (and of Polish heritage), I found all of the information about Poland to be extremely interesting. Throughout the book there are Polish places, customs, sayings, etc. that are then explained to the reader. While it did slightly make you lose your frame of mind, it was helpful and intriguing to have that added explanation. The author also includes fictional events based off of true happenings in Poland which made the whole thing that much more real. I felt like this element of true events mixed well with the whole concept of never quite knowing whether things were dreams or reality.
Overall, this was dark and morbid fiction. I can best describe my reading of this thriller the same as witnessing a car crash; I desperately know it’s wrong to look but my curiosity keeps me glued. Mlek’s vivid and powerful writing will leave you simultaneously wanting to stop and yet begging for more. One thing I can guarantee- if you are brave enough to enter the world of Hanka and the Raven, you won’t be able to leave it anytime soon.