I wonder if it is coincidental that I have read this book over Shabbat just prior to the 2018 Russian presidential election.
I got this book from my favorite book-junkie event of the year – the Jewish Book Council “Raid the Shelves“. Luckily, I work right next door, so I don’t schlep all of them at once, but take my time to bring home these books one by one. I picked this one thinking that I’d leave it on the shelf waiting for the time I have once I retire. I started flipping through it on the subway because I simply can’t leave the book untouched, even if I don’t plan to read it right away. I couldn’t put it down.
First of all, I love the language! I am a verbal person – I talk a lot, I write, I read. I am not a writer myself, but I can appreciate a beautifully constructed sentence where words flow like music. I find it remarkable in a writer, whose first language is not English.
Secondly, I always liked novels loosely based on history. Even though (I think) I found a small historical / territorial glitch, the book weaves together the past and the present connecting the two through an art piece that makes the lovers of Russian art and history go weak in the knees.
At first, I thought that was it. But no – the crooked valleys of the story also manage to portray the present-day Russian oligarchs simultaneously as ruthless gangsters that they are and sensitive people who had to go through times and struggles that I certainly remember myself.
Pile all of this on top of a healthy dose of contemporary woman’s battle to carefully weigh family or career – and you’ve got this page-turner.
I am sure people might say that the book is too shallow, no deep waters touched, or too soft or too hard on the characters that we can practically point out. However, it worked for me. Maybe just because I lived very close to the crowd she describes.
My last question to myself is – why does it still bother me?