Summary and book reviews of The Russian Debutante's Handbook by Gary Shteyngart

The Russian Debutante's Handbook

A Novel

by Gary Shteyngart

The Russian Debutante's Handbook by Gary Shteyngart X
The Russian Debutante's Handbook by Gary Shteyngart
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Jun 2002, 464 pages
    Paperback:
    May 2003, 480 pages

  • Rate this book


Buy This Book

About this Book

Book Summary

The hilarious adventures of Vladimir, a young Russian-American immigrant, takes a serious look at what it means to be an outsider in America, and what it means to be an American.

The Russian Debutante's Handbook is infused with energy and wit and a brilliant use of language. Hilarious, extravagant, yet uncannily true to life, it follows the adventures of Vladimir, a young Russian-American immigrant, whose capitalist dreams and desires for a girlfriend lead him off the straight and narrow and into uncharted territory.

Taking us from the dreary confines of New York City's Emma Lazarus Immigrant Absorption Society to the hip frontier wilderness of Prava--the Eastern European Paris of the nineties--whose grand and glorious beauty is marred only by the shadow of the looming statue of Stalin's foot, this is both a madcap adventure and a serious look at what it means to be an outsider in America, and what it means to be an American.

PART I
NEW YORK,
1993

1. THE STORY OF VLADIMIR GIRSHKIN

The story of Vladimir Girshkin - part P. T. Barnum, part V. I. Lenin, the man who would conquer half of Europe (albeit the wrong half) - begins the way so many other things begin. On a Monday morning. In an office. With the first cup of instant coffee gurgling to life in the common lounge.

His story begins in New York, on the corner of Broadway and Battery Place, the most disheveled, godforsaken, not-for-profit corner of New York's financial district. On the tenth floor, the Emma Lazarus Immigrant Absorption Society greeted its clients with the familiar yellow water-stained walls and dying hydrangeas of a sad Third World government office. In the reception room, under the gentle but insistent prodding of trained Assimilation Facilitators, Turks and Kurds called a truce, Tutsis queued patiently behind Hutus, Serbs chatted up Croats by the demilitarized water fountain.

Meanwhile, in the cluttered back office, junior ...

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Reviews

Media Reviews

O Magazine
... [a] tender and hilarious émigré's romance.

Time Out New York
This picaresque debut...transcends its personal genesis to become an all-around great American story....If Henry Miller were Russian, this is a book he might have written.

Elle
The rampaging narrative is festooned on every page with glittering one-liners, improbably apt similes and other miniature pleasures.

The Washington Post
Gary Shteyngart ... has produced a sardonic, moving and ingeniously crafted update of earlier sagas of upward-struggling American newcomers.

Harper's Bazaar
A brilliant, funny debut describing the vicissitudes of immigration today, as experienced by the hero, a young Russian-American.

Vanity Fair
... a terrifically charming tale of a young Russian immigrant's capitalist and carnal aspirations.

Publishers Weekly
Although the satire on the expatriate American community is a little too easy, Shteyngart's Vladimir remains an impressive piece of work, an amoral buffoon who energizes this remarkably mature work.

Kirkus Reviews
Ambitious, funny, intelligent, in love with irony and literary allusions, as if by a lighter Nabokov.

Reader Reviews

again Claudia (Italy)

Simply Marvellous! Shteyngart describes russian emigrates in Prague like I imagine them, and give also a critical idea of how young americans live today.
As an Italian girl I see Russian emigrates and Americans like Shteyngart describes...

Misha

Great Novel! Any honest soviet-Jew who grew up in the U.S. will be able to relate to the protagonist. A must read for anyone interested to know what Russians really think of the States, and how the soviet Russian mind tries to survive in the open ...   Read More

Michael

well written, superb command of language and wit compensate hansomely for a somewhat weak storyline. Funny and easy reading, pure pleasure.

amy

I really thought this book was awesome! It was selected at random for our book club, and it was a relief to read about misadventures instead of misfortunes. The author has terrific style...phrasing is excellent. I highly recommend this book.

Write your own review!

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Readalikes

Readalikes Full readalike results are for members only

More books by Gary Shteyngart

If you liked The Russian Debutante's Handbook, try these:

  • Luminous Airplanes jacket

    Luminous Airplanes

    by Paul LaFarge

    Published 2012

    About this book

    More books by this author

    A decade after the publication of Haussmann, or the Distinction, his acclaimed novel about nineteenth-century Paris, Paul La Farge turns his imagination to America at the dawn of the twenty-first century.

  • The Lazarus Project jacket

    The Lazarus Project

    by Aleksandar Hemon

    Published 2009

    About this book

    More books by this author

    In 1908, 19-year-old Lazarus went to the home of George Shippy, the Chicago chief of police to deliver a letter - but Shippy shot Lazarus twice, killing him. Now, in the 21st century, a young writer, Brik, becomes obsessed with Lazarus' story - what really happened and why? As digs deeper, the stories of Lazarus and Brik become inextricably ...

Non-members are limited to two results. Become a member
Search Readalikes again
How we choose readalikes
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: The Winter Soldier
    The Winter Soldier
    by Daniel Mason
    Imagine the thousands of confounding cases doctors face routinely for which diagnoses are hard to ...
  • Book Jacket: Brother
    Brother
    by David Chariandy
    Brother is the brief, moving account of how a single, tragic moment in time can alter the course of ...
  • Book Jacket
    The Islamic Enlightenment
    by Christopher de Bellaigue
    In this comprehensive and well-researched history, de Bellaigue examines the evolution of Islamic ...
  • Book Jacket: The Spy of Venice
    The Spy of Venice
    by Benet Brandreth
    Benet Brandreth's delightfully diverting historical thriller brings the Bard to vibrant life. ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
The Removes by Tatjana Soli

A powerful, transporting novel about the addictive intensity and freedom of the American frontier.

About the book
Join the discussion!

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    French Exit
    by Patrick deWitt

    A brilliant and darkly comic novel from bestselling author Patrick deWitt.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win The Clockmaker's Daughter

The Clockmaker's Daughter by Kate Morton

A rich, spellbinding new novel from the author of The Lake House. On sale Oct 9.

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

T Turn T S

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.