Ms. Liksom is fearlessly good at portraying wicked men in all their moods and disguises. (Her fantastic novel Compartment No. 6 features a similar, and similarly compelling, figure.) The narrator herself is not always as persuasive. It is only after the war, when the Colonel makes her the outlet for his sadism, that she repents of her past ... the novel is strongest when it’s most direct about why people engage in evil: Because they enjoy it.
The Colonel's Wife, by Rosa Liksom...is purely a work of fiction and offers a Finnish setting for the fascist narrative. The novel moves with a sprightly pace, and the rough Northern landscape is beautifully depicted ... The protagonists' love of the natural world accords with the back-to-nature sentiment with which early strains of fascism were infused, but it also makes for lovely reading ...The sanitized narrative is unsettling to read, particularly for readers who know (as we should all know today) the true scale of fascism's horror ... Liksom's tale is a brilliantly drawn metaphor, and just as it took tremendous hardship and effort for so many people to wake up from their simplistic, codependent love affair with fascism, so the narrator faces the painful and torturous challenge of struggling to break free of her relationship with the Colonel and to rebuild a new life for herself ... The Colonel's Wife is a quick read but a difficult one in many respects. The casual fascism of the narrator, who so easily brushes off the genocidal violence of the Nazis, makes for easy reading but a troubled conscience, particularly for readers who know there's more to it than the narrator makes out ... There are times when the author describes such things with just too light-hearted a tone; the literary dimension of harsh truths clearly given primacy. Yet there is a wisdom to be found in this sort of a tale as well.
A chilling yet necessary book, at times it’s painful to read as the narrator blithely dismisses greater and greater atrocities in the name of being a good wife and Finnish nationalist. Yet the cracks begin to show, and finally the narrator can see what those of us on the other side of history have learned ... As with Liksom’s previous novel, nature is a significant presence. Most of the story takes place in Finnish towns above the Arctic Circle, like Rovaniemi and Inari, and the trees, water and night skies resonate with life, becoming the ultimate touchstone in the narrator’s journey to understand what has happened to her.
...[a] brief, haunting novel ... The narrator’s reminiscences are frank and unadorned, but still moving; her descriptions of the torture she witnesses by the Nazis, and of that she endures by her husband, are made more chilling by their lack of sentimentality. Liksom’s novel memorably combines transportive prose and her narrator’s stark perspective.
An intimate investigation of authoritarianism ... This is not a confession, and there is something horribly fascinating in reading the words of someone who is eager to speak about her Nazi past without apology. But the narrator’s lack of interest in introspection ultimately makes her recitations of events almost boring, especially for readers who don’t have the historical knowledge to follow the shifts back and forth in time. This slim novel works best when it reads like a dark fairy tale or a fable about the day-to-day experience of evil. Unusual and uneven.