Book review: Catch the Rabbit

Catch the Rabbit

Lana Bastašic


Review: Karen Watkins

This debut novel from Yugoslavian-born Lana Bastašic is a poignant and powerful story about the challenges of friendships.

The story is a loop, beginning with a broken sentence which concludes at the end – no peeping!

Sara, the narrator, is living in Dublin with boyfriend Michael, having fled Bosnia to build a new life.

Inseparable when young, her childhood friend Lejla, whom she hasn’t seen for 12 years, calls from Mostar to say that her exiled brother Armin is alive and living in Vienna.

This hypnotic trigger sends Sara down the rabbit hole. She buys a plane ticket to Zagreb, because there are no direct flights to Mostar, and leaves Michael.

Arriving in Mostar, Sara finds Lejla who, without blinking, walks away from her waitressing job and husband Dino.

As they drive across eastern Europe they reconstruct their shared past and reconcile differing memories.

Sara struggles to make sense of the reckless reality of adult Lejla who throws cassette tapes and tampons out the window.

According to Bastašic, Catch the Rabbit is modelled on Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland.

Both books are told in 12 chapters and follow an improbable chase initiated by an equally improbable white-haired creature. Bastašic translated the book into English. It won the 2020 European Union Prize for Literature.

Having visited Mostar, known for its iconic Stari Most, or Old Bridge, a reconstructed medieval arched bridge that straddles the Neretva River, it was the striking backdrop of post-war Bosnia that attracted me to read this.

The story provided food for thought. Why do some friendships last a lifetime and others not?

● We received 35 entries in last week’s competition for the book Sixteen Horses. The winner was Robert W Heneke of Fairways.