One of those Books that Leaves a Mark
I loved this book! And why, because it was simple, well-written with extraordinary language, and just one of those books you hate to finish. The main characters are strong, real women who face day to day in regular ways. There is no super powers or descriptions of snide out of this word antics, just regular women trying their best to survive the lemons life gives. I loved that.
I loved that Tanya, a heavy-set girl, kept her head in the clouds even when the earth threatened to bring her back down. Olga, an older mom, kept her wits about her as her life continues to spiral out of her control. Which is the way it is. How many of us have full control?
So many books written show the women as either a control-freak or shy and afraid. This book shows women and men as they are in a situation they did not choose (the downturn of the Russian economy) and how they, like us, live everyday by getting up doing our thing and going home. Very Good Book, Highly recommend it! One of those books you continue to revisit long after the book covers are closed.
Rated of 5
by Kate S. (arvada, CO)
Quite a Read. I Loved it!
The title alone was appealing to me; the book did not disappoint. The author is certainly gifted, and has a wonderful way with words. I enjoyed how each chapter was written from a different characters point of view. Many readers have stated how it was depressing or hard to read. To me, it followed real life. A life many of us cannot imagine. People are unpredictable, they react differently under stress. I think the character Tanya stated it perfectly. "Whether we are savage or civilized, I can"t say. But we are authentic, this much I know." I think it would make a wonderful book for book clubs. Good discussion, good characters,a Russia many of us know little about.
Rated of 5
by Mark O. (Wenatchee, WA)
Surviving with grace
Like the labels on wine bottles, this book has flavors of Dostoevsky’s Notes from Underground and of Laura Esquivel’s Like Water for Chocolate with a hint of Douglas Adams' The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul. The setting is a Russia so squalid that people are almost feral. The inhabitants of the story live in a derelict apartment building. Daily life has its price, especially for use of the latrine in the courtyard of the apartment building. One of the characters is Undead, not as a sexy vampire but simply harder to get rid of than athlete’s foot. Reading this book took a long time, not because it is literary fiction (and so more about character than plot) but because I stopped to take lots of notes - quotes to add to my commonplace book and examples of gorgeously-constructed writing. One of the characters keeps a notebook always at hand (we get an occasional look at the contents), a reminder to all of us readers and writers to Pay Attention. The apartment building is a microcosm of the Russian melting pot but the older inhabitants haven’t melted and so have the solace and burden of ancestral identities. Perhaps the best gifts of this book are the reminders that dreams are the most substantial things we can have and that color can be found in the drabbest places, if looked for.
Rated of 5
by Karen R. (Gilbert, AZ)
The Russian Dreambook of Color & Flight
Oschner has a keenly filmic sensibility - visual details such as Yuri's helmet, the Red Star office and its pneumatic tubes, the museum and the snowy apartment complex would all make stark and striking backdrops. Though the pacing is at times slowed by extended ruminations (the chapters alternate between the characters) it's a worthy read for its combination of eccentric humor, absurdity, and depictions of a community strained by politics, opportunism, censorship and hardship. Tanya and Olga in particular stand out.
Rated of 5
by Beth C. (Sioux Falls, SD)
Magical Realism in Post-Soviet Russia
The characters in this unusual book by Gina Ochsner (Tanya, Olga, Yuri, Zoya, Azade, Mircha, and Vitek) all live in a aging and derelict apartment building that doesn't have functioning indoor toilets. They all must share a latrine that is located in the courtyard. Azade collects payment for the use of this facility and it is in the courtyard that most of their interactions occur. Mircha fell off the roof one day and his ghost also hangs out in this area as well as in the building because they haven't been able to give his body a suitable burial. Tanya, Yuri and Zoya work at a pseudo-museum where they make and display replicas of replicas and give tours of the displays.
When there is a chance for a grant from some rich Americans of Russian heritage, it throws the whole group into a tizzy.
For those who enjoy magical realism in fiction, this would likely be an enjoyable book.
Rated of 5
by Vicky S. (Torrance, CA)
At Times Bizarre, Thought Provoking and Tedious
Reading this book is like listening to someone else's dreams - at times very strange with what the characters choose to do, to how they interact with each other or interesting when characters are faced with difficult circumstances without good options. But is also like listening to another's dreams since at times I didn't care - it was a bit tedious particularly with the focus on negative odors from toilets, latrines or a hole in the ground. These odors are at work, home and waft off of the characters - yuck!
I enjoyed that the story took place in Russia since I am not familiar with this country. I also appreciated that the author alternated between the characters perspectives for the different chapters.
Rated of 5
by Laura H. (Los Angeles, CA)
The Russian Dreambook
A beautifully drawn tale of Soviet Russia centered around a small group of people trying to live in a crumbling condemned housing project. Each chapter follows one of the residents, examining the defenses and denials necessary to live and survive in a society where the official version of truth cannot be questioned. When lies public and private become a way of life, the only escapes are in fantasy, tradition and whatever hope can be gathered that change can still happen. Ochsner skillfully recreates life in this oppressive time, but because her characters are fascinating and the stories liberally infused with black humor, it's a fun and compelling read.
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