Bride and Groom, by Alisa Ganieva

Screen Shot 2018-04-10 at 6.50.03 PMThere are some places in the world where it seems, for all the advances in technology and medicine, that people still live in the past. In the case of Marat and Patya, the protagonists of Alisa Ganieva’s deeply affecting novel Bride and Groom (translated by Carol Apollonio), their parents and friends live according to rules laid out centuries before the Soviet Union attempted to impose itself on Dagestan. Marat and Patya return from their jobs in Moscow to their hometown outside of Makhachkala in order to marry whoever they can, because their parents are desperate for their mid-20s children to have children.

Marat is in the middle of a huge legal case when he gets word from his mother that she has booked a local hall for his wedding reception. He doesn’t have a fiancée, but his mother has a list of eligible young Muslim Avar women for him to choose from. Patya is in another sticky situation. At 25, she’s considered on the shelf. She’s been recalled from Moscow because her mother believes she’s on her last chance. As Bride and Groom progresses, Marat and Patya circle closer to each other. Their friends or family (or, in once case, an appalling, possessive, would-be boyfriend) invite them to events where the two see each other. When they do get a chance to talk to each other, there’s a spark—something they don’t feel for any of the potential partners their parents parade in front of them.

In addition to Marat and Patya’s sweet tale and their parents’ marital frenzy, Bride and Groom is packed with characters and stories. I was reminded of earlier Russian novels where meeting characters and getting to know a setting involves listening to funny, horrible, or weird stories about relatives or friends of friends. Here this means learning about Rusik the Nail’s low level skirmishing with increasingly fundamentalist Muslims, the growing legend of local political/crime boss Khalilbek, Patya’s Granny’s stories about how life used to be before the Soviet Union got its hooks in, and much more. Listening to all these stories felt like settling in for a long, tea-fueled chat at a family reunion.

I was furious and heartbroken by the ending to Bride and Groom until I realized two things. First, this is a Russian novel. I have yet to read a story written by a Russian that has an unequivocally happy ending. I keep hoping and I keep getting my heart broken. Second, reading the author’s afterword clued me into the fact that the novel is seeded with references to Sufism and Sufi legend. Not being familiar with anything about Sufism, I missed all of it. Readers who are familiar might see Bride and Groom as much more allegorical than I could. Personally, I was so entertained by this novel (right up until the end) that I don’t really care.

Readers who are okay with laughing and then crying their way through a book will enjoy Bride and Groom. It is frequently hilarious and the social setting is brilliantly drawn. Readers who want a happy ending should probably skip this one or stop reading right before the end.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss, for review consideration. 

The Aviator, by Eugene Vodolazkin

36926956Innokenty Petrovich Platonov wakes up in a hospital at the beginning of The Aviator, by Eugene Vodolazkin and translated by Lisa Hayden. He has no idea what’s wrong with him or how he got there. In fact, Doctor Geiger has to tell him his name. The strange thing is that Geiger is very reticent to tell Innokenty anything else about who he is. It isn’t until about a third of the way through the book that we all learn exactly how a man who was born in 1900 but is taking medication manufactured in 1997.

After Innokenty wakes up, Geiger insists that he start writing down what he remembers of his life. Geiger says that it will be better for his recovery if Innokenty remembers for himself instead of just being told. So, Innokenty starts to write about summer trips to the Crimea with his family before World War I and the Bolshevik Revolution. He writes about the love of his life, Anastasia Voronina, and their experiences in collective housing and the new order. He writes about his years in the nascent gulag system in the late 1920s, though he does not dwell on the worst parts of his life. All of his recollections are mixed with his introduction to life at the end of the twentieth century.

As a man out of time and a man who lived through some of the most tumultuous and important years in Russian history, Innokenty is immediately famous. He is also a huge disappointment to interviewers. Instead of telling them about what it was like to be in St. Petersburg in 1917 or as a zek in the gulag, Innokenty prefers to talk about the sounds that one no longer hears or the smells that are gone. Social historians, who chase down those bits of lost history, would love him. Innokenty’s obsessions and fascinations are interesting to read, almost refreshing after reading so many novels set in and around the Revolution that find it necessary to reiterate the same events.

The deeper I got into The Aviator, the more I was reminded of Flowers for Algernon (one of the first books I remember breaking my heart—read it!). Innokenty remarks a couple of times that he identifies more with Belka and Strelka (sent into space by the Soviets) than with any hero. He didn’t plan on surviving what happened to him and never asked to be the object of so much effort and attention. The Aviator, then, mediates on what might happen to a man who loses potential decades of time with people he understood, loved, and hated. In his second act, Innokenty confronts questions about forgiveness, loss, futility, memory, and more. I very much enjoyed accompanying Innokenty on his journey in this deft, thoughtful novel.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss, for review consideration. It will be released 8 May 2018.

Ivan’s War, by Catherine Merridale

1241678It seems appropriate that I finished this book on the eve of Veteran’s Day. Merridale’s relentless Ivan’s War: Life and Death in the Red Army, 1939-1945 is a powerful narrative of the realities of the experience of Soviet soldiers during World War II. Like American soldiers during the second World War, the “Ivans” have been mythologized in the decades since the end of the war. American kids, like Soviet and Russian kids, learn about the veterans as larger than life heroes. We learn that life as a soldier was bitterly difficult. We learn that, without them, it would have been impossible to defeat the Nazis. But it isn’t until later (if ever) that we learn about the complexities and failures of our heroes. Merridale’s book is sympathetic but unflinching in this respect.

Merridale opens her book with an explanation of how she came up with the idea to write it. She had been interviewing Russians about life during the Stalinist era when she noticed that, whenever she asked about the war, many veterans and civilians were reticent to talk about it. There were some, of course, who would talk about their experiences, but many would repeat old, patriotic slogans or give bland accounts. Merridale dug deeper, traveling from archive to archive around Russia to find a more accurate picture of Red Army soldier life. What she found was astonishing—at least to me.

It is true that between June 22, 1941 and September, 1943, the Red Army was the only national army fighting the Third Reich. In the panic after the Nazi invasion in the summer of 1941, millions of volunteers, conscripts, and prisoners were thrown at the invaders. After successfully defending Moscow in the summer of 1941-1942, the Red Army slowly drove the Nazis back. Over the next almost three years, they drove the Nazis back to Berlin, which fell in late April 1945.

That’s the simple version of the history. Merridale’s research and interviews revealed the terror of life as an Ivan. The myth is that the men signed up to defend their rodina, their motherland. What we usually don’t hear about is that there were battalions of NKVD officers and troops who were more than ready to shoot anyone who deserted. The Red Army soldiers had no choice but to fight. Millions of them died. So many died that I am still surprised that there was anyone left alive between Oder-Neisse line and Moscow. Estimates vary but the number of Soviet military and civilian deaths is probably somewhere around 27 million. It’s impossible to say for sure because records were rarely kept and bodies were destroyed, etc.

Merridale shares the extreme hardships of life in the Red Army: lack of supplies, the weather, poor strategy, fear, and more. It’s little wonder that veterans don’t want to talk about it. Merridale also shares the dark side of the Red Army’s advance across eastern Europe. Hundreds of thousand German and Polish women were raped by Red Army soldiers. Red Army soldiers pillaged German territory; they stole everything they could to send back to the Soviet Union. What Merridale found was a deep sense of vengeance among veterans. At the time, soldiers were told that they were taking revenge for what the Nazis had done to their country, but much of what happened was actively suppressed during and after the war.

Ivan’s War is a harrowing read but, I think, a very necessary one. Unlike the American veterans’ experience, Red Army soldiers were fighting (at least at first) on their own soil against a seemingly invincible enemy. They faced death from all directions. Conditions were so terrible, supplies so rare, and leadership so disorganized (at first), that it’s a miracle that the Red Army succeeded. This book presents that miracle in its full complexity, sharing a truly epic history that might have been lost.

The Girl in the Tower, by Katherine Arden

34050917Vasilisa Petrovna’s adventures continue in The Girl in the Tower, by Katherine Arden, the sequel to The Bear and the Nightingale. Without her family to shield her from the hostile villagers of Lesnaya Zemlya, she lights out for the territories on her trusty, magical horse to become a traveler. But because a) Russian fairy tales tend to be as bloodthirsty or more than Grimms’ and b) fourteenth century Russia is no picnic anyway, Vasilisa is almost immediately in peril.

In fourteenth century Russia, women have few options. It’s either marriage or a convent. And, for high ranking women, marriage came with lifelong seclusion in terem. All Vasilisa wants is to see the world. Though her protector, Morozko (the snow-king) tries to dissuade her, Vasilisa takes to the road. Meanwhile, we also check in with Vasilisa’s older sister, Olga, in Moscow, and her warrior-monk brother, Sasha. As Vasilisa is making her way, disguised as a boy, Olga is trying to maintain order in her haunted tower and Sasha is dealing with the fallout of a series of violent attacks on villages around Moscow by bandits who don’t leave tracks.

It doesn’t take long for the siblings’ stories to intersect and for Vasilisa to realize that she’s up against something supernatural. Again. I don’t want to say too much because if I start talking about what happens, anyone who knows a bit about Russian folklore might be able to figure things out too soon. But I will say that I love the way Vasilisa and her family are caught between the native spirits of Russia who are still hanging on in the banyas and hearths of the country and the new Orthodox faith that dismisses the bannik and domovoi as devils. A few centuries before, Vasilisa might not have had to deal with everything alone or been accused of witchcraft. Half (or more) of Vasilisa’s fight is just trying to get people to at least allow her get on with things.

I remember liking The Bear and the Nightingale a lot, but I think I might have enjoyed this entry in the series even more. The stakes have been raised in The Girl in the Tower. The story has widened to bring in even more figures from Russian folklore. But most of all, I love who Vasilisa is becoming. She is learning that she is mostly on her own and she grows increasingly capable with every new challenge. She also has a gift for pushing her family and allies to be better people, to become heroes. There’s so much in The Girl in the Tower that I loved. I strongly recommend these books for fans of folklore and folklore retellings.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley for review consideration. It will be released 5 December 2017.

The Revolution of Marina M., by Janet Fitch

34523120Communism never took human nature into account, which meant that the workers’ paradise was always going to be just a pipe dream. Of course, in the Russia of 1917, the Bolsheviks were willing to go to any lengths to force the rest of their countrymen to try to create that paradise. For people like Marina Makarova, protagonist of Janet Fitch’s The Revolution of Marina M., this meant that they had to shift for themselves as best they could while trying to get around the increasingly complex and discriminatory bureaucracy. Throughout the book, Marina encounters person after person who is only out for themselves. It is the worst place at the worst time for a passionate, naive girl who doesn’t know what she wants and is used to being cared for by servants.

After a prologue that takes away some of the tension by revealing that she survives and escapes the nascent Soviet Union, we meet 16-year-old, St. Petersburg native Marina at a party for her aristocratic set early in 1917. She is struggling with her strong physical attraction for Kolya while also flirting with Communism via her friendship with the sharp-tongued Varvara. She doesn’t have any political convictions herself, but she empathizes with the poor. Her parents seem willing to let Marina and Kolya flirt, they are increasingly angry with her for her slumming with Varvara and the teeming millions of the city.

The Revolution of Marina M. covers 1917 through 1919. Marina is caught more than once by the rapidly developing violence of the Russian Revolution and subsequent civil war. She might have been able to keep her head down once she moves in with an anarchic group of Futurist poets, but she’s caught between jealous lovers, revolutionary friends, and aristocratic, anti-Bolshevik parents. The other people in her life never seem to show their best sides when Marina’s life is in peril. Granted, it’s hard to stick one’s neck out when the price might be starvation, imprisonment, or execution. On top of this, in Marina’s case, is the fact that most of the people in her life grow exasperated with her fickle heart and ineptitude. Something about Marina brings out the worst in a lot of people and they’re reluctant to do much for her.

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Russian revolutionaries in 1917
(Image via Wikicommons)

In spite of all this, Marina somehow soldiers on. She survives hunger, kidnapping and rape, imprisonment, and treat of summary execution. Because of her attachment to her parents and her friends, she never becomes a devoted revolutionary. She does become a devoted survivor, though never in a way that stretched my credulity. What I did have a hard time believing was the strange ending sequence of the novel, when Marina falls in with a group of people practicing some kind of transcendentalist hooey. I could see this section as an internal revolution for our protagonist, in which she finally learns to stop relying on others to bail her out. But it’s so weird that the last 100+ pages just didn’t work for me. (The ending also leaves a big question unanswered.)

The Revolution of Marina M. is probably too long. It’s definitely too histrionic. But I’ll admit that I was hooked for most of it. By the time I got to the part I didn’t like, I was so close to the end I couldn’t quit. What I liked most about this book was the way that Fitch brought 1917 St. Petersburg back to life through the eyes of a bewildered girl. I imagine that Marina’s experience of politics was a common one; unlike dedicated Communists, most of what happened politically in those years seemed like one unexpected blow after another. Fitch has a deft hand with the research. So while The Revolution of Marina M. is definitely an imperfect book, it does have some things to recommend it to readers who are willing to put up with a heavy dose of melodrama in their historical fiction.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley for review consideration. It will be released 7 November 2017.

Red Famine, by Anna Applebaum

33864676For decades, knowledge of the Holodomor was suppressed or dismissed as a hoax. In Red Famine: Stalin’s War on Ukraine, 1921-1933, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Anna Applebaum was able to take newly available archival and oral material and build on the work of previous scholars’ work to create a throughout history of what Sovietization did to Ukraine. It is a harrowing read because all of the suffering and death could have been avoided if Stalin had bowed to reality and reversed his impossible grain policies.

Applebaum begins her history in the nineteenth century. Her argument in Red Famine is that Russia, and later the Soviet Union, had an established policy of squashing any Ukrainian nationalism, culture, and language. From the 1800s, the Ukrainian language was banned. Russian and Russians were preferred. Ukrainians had a brief chance at establishing an independent republic after the October Revolution. The Soviets, the Black Army, and others, however, had other ideas. After the Soviets won the Civil War, they set about imposing their version of Communism across the country. The early Soviet attempts at collectivism (along with political repression, chaos, and bad weather) caused famines in 1921, 1928-1929, and then another in 1932-1933 that took millions of lives.

Ukraine has been fought over for centuries because of its fertile soil. It’s part of Europe’s breadbasket. Because of this reputation and because of his determination to ramp up production everywhere (regardless of reality), Stalin demanded impossible amounts of grain for export. When party officials were unable to come up with the millions of tons of grains, they began to confiscate grain, livestock, and other food from the peasantry with official approval. Internal and external pressure led the Soviets to reverse their policies in the early 1920s, but nothing stopped Stalin in 1932. Applebaum lists policy after policy enacted that lead to inescapable mass starvation. And yet, even in the depths of the famine, farmers would write to Stalin asking for help. They didn’t know that Stalin not only didn’t care, but that the famine he created was also a tool to make Ukrainians surrender any hopes for independence.

A few months ago, I read A Square Meal about how food changed in America as a result of the Depression. Some politicians fought against direct relief, but the New Deal and other programs gave food, money, and jobs to people who struggled with poverty. The situation was almost the exact opposite in Ukraine. It was as if Stalin and his circle were deliberately trying to starve the entire country to death. As soon as the peasants found a way to make a bit of money or get a bit of food, there would be a policy blocking that route. It’s heartbreaking to read.

Applebaum concludes with a few chapters that discuss how Soviet officials, then, during the Cold War, and Russian officials now, manipulated demographic data and called the famine a fascist hoax. Only after Ukraine became an independent country in 1991 did many Ukrainians openly talk about the Holodomor and its aftermath.

In Red Famine, Applebaum gives voice to so many Ukrainians, Volga Germans, Cossacks, and Russians who haven’t been heard until now. By letting these voices speak for themselves after decades of silence, Applebaum has crafted a very human history of a tragedy in clear, undeniable language.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley for review consideration. It will be released 10 October 2017.

Death in St. Petersburg, by Tasha Alexander

33602097Tasha Alexander’s Death in St. Petersburg sees Lady Emily Hargreaves and her husband Colin off to the Russian Empire. Colin’s superiors in the British government have sent him to the Russian to help them investigate anarchists and other subversives. Emily joins him to keep him company and enjoy the splendors of the city. It’s a fine plan, until she stumbles across a murdered ballerina after a performance.

Because Emily cannot resist a good crime, she starts poking around immediately. (She gets yelled at by the police more than once for sticking her nose into the case.) Her persistence is rewarded when the ballerina, Irusya’s, lover hires Emily to poke around even more. She follows her instincts and the clues to dive deeply into the world of Russian ballet (there are cameos by some of the biggest names of the era, like Mathilde Kschessinska and Pierina Lagnani).

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Mathilde Kschessinska

The pieces refuse to fall together, however. Jealousy just doesn’t seem to work as a motive. Irusya’s lover and past lovers all have alibis. None of the leads go anywhere. But then things—as they usually do in Russia—get political. Anarchist and Socialist literature turns up. Irusya’s best friend, Katenka, has suspiciously subversive relatives and friends. Colin (futilely) cautions Emily to stay away from the politics, as the activists are more than willing to toss bombs and shoot people. And, as usual, Emily ignores his warnings in order to find out what happened to Irusya.

Death in St. Petersburg is the twelfth entry in the series and features several characters from past adventures (including the hilariously obnoxious Sebastian Capet). That said, I had no problem diving into the book even though I haven’t read any of the latest volumes.  What I loved most about this book was the way it brings the St. Petersburg of 1900 back to life. Emily and Colin pause to converse along the Neva and Emily once chases a man through the Hermitage. I rather enjoyed this whirlwind novel set at the end of Imperial Russia’s reign, which begins as a fascinating look into high Russian culture and ends with a tense race to stop an explosive plot.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley for review consideration. It will be released 10 October 2017.

City Folk and Country Folk, by Sofia Khvoshchinskaya

The divide between country and city is a popular trope in Russian fiction (at least as far as I can tell with the handful of Russian novels I’ve read). City people believe themselves to be more cultured and intellectually sophisticated than their rustic countrymen. The country people are baffled by the affectations of the urbanites. I hadn’t seen any stories take on these assumptions until I read Sofia Khvoshchinskaya’s Country Folk and City Folk (translated by Nora Seligman Favorov). This comic novel—reminiscent of Jane Austen and flavored with the usual Russian philosophizing—takes place around 1860 in the provincial town of Snetki. A trio of Muscovite aristocrats descends on Nastasya Ivanova and her daughter, Olenka and try to manipulate the “bumpkins,” only to realize that these country folk have their share of common sense.

Nastasya Ivanova and Olenka are quite different from each other, though they are an affectionate pair. Nastasya is accommodating and frets if she thinks she’s failed as a hostess and gentlewoman. To Olenka, everything is a joke and she rarely shies from saying exactly what she thinks. They’re cheerful enough living on their estate until Anna Ilinishna, Erast Sergeyevich Ovcharov, and Katerina Petrovna Dolgoroskaya turn up in Snetki. Anna wants a free place to live while she waits for the princess she was living with to realize her mistake in turning Anna out. Anna is a “holy woman,” an exceedingly pious woman on the surface but a con artist underneath. Erast Sergeyevich, on the other hand, is a bit more honest. He also wants accommodation, having run through all his funds and learning that even the manor house was dismantled and sold off. Both Anna and Erast find a place to live. (Erast rents the newly built bathhouse.) Katerina Petrovna wants to marry Olenka to Semyon, Katerina’s lover, so that Semyon can have an income and a reason to stay in the country.

Olenka is wise to all of these schemes pretty much from the start, but it takes Nastasya a while to stop trying to see the best in these exasperating people. It also takes a while for the action in Country Folk and City Folk to get rolling. Erast is given many opportunities to embarrass himself at the beginning of the novel. To Russians, I suppose, Erast is a hilariously incoherent social philosopher but I was rolling my eyes hard along with Olenka. When the manipulations start in earnest, I saw a lot of similarities to Austen’s comedies of manners as characters schemed to win over opinions and maneuver people all over the place.

I requested Country Folk and City Folk from NetGalley because I’ve been keen to read another female Russian writer ever since I read Teffi’s Memories. I’ve really enjoyed reading another side of Russian literature: comical rather than depressing, lightly social rather than heavily philosophical. I’m very glad Columbia University Press published this novel, which was previously unavailable in English. It’s a wonderful read for its sarcastic honesty and the way it turns old stories inside out.

I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley for review consideration. It will be released 15 August 2017.

The Hottest Dishes of the Tartar Cuisine, by Alina Bronsky

All of us have mother issues, to some extent, but I doubt that anyone’s mother is as awful as Rosalinda Achmetowna. Of course, Rosa could not imagine that anyone would think she’s a bad mother and grandmother. In Alina Bronsky’s The Hottest Dishes of the Tartar Cuisine (translated by Tim Mohr), Rosa is very careful to explain that everything she does is for her daughter and granddaughter’s own good. If it weren’t for the fact that Rosa is hilariously oblivious to everyone around her, this book might be too much to bear. Even with the humor, Rosa is clearly a candidate for worst mother ever.

When we first meet Rosa, she’s trying to arrange an abortion for her daughter, Sulfia. Sulfia only goes along with it because no one says no to Rosa. Sulfia has been browbeaten so much over the years that she’s adopted a strategy of passivity when it comes to her mother—which, unfortunately for her, makes Rosa doubt her intelligence. When Aminat is born, it comes as a surprise to everyone. Rosa sees her granddaughter as a chance to raise a perfect child, since she failed (through no fault of her own, she would tell us) with Sulfia. Thus begins the great battle for Aminat’s soul between mother and grandmother.

For most of the book, Rosa is firmly convinced that she is right and everyone else is wrong. They could be better if they only tried harder and just obeyed her commands. She is not above pulling Aminat’s hair or threatening to take away her kitten if the little girl doesn’t “behave.” Rosa is also a master of emotional blackmail. Perhaps she’s just a product of late Soviet life. She grew up in an orphanage and learned how to hustle, Soviet style. But the techniques she uses to manipulate officials are probably the worst techniques for parenting.

It isn’t until much later, when Rosa and Aminat move to Germany (the result of an appalling trade Rosa makes) that the façade starts to crack. Aminat begins to seriously rebel and Rosa can’t get a legitimate job in a country where blackmail and bribery are not a matter of course. (She is shocked when an instructor only charges her for the cost of the driving test.)

In the end, we’re left to judge Rosa for her deeds. Does it matter that she really might have meant well when she did so much damage? How much can we trust what Rosa tells us? It’s hard to take her seriously when her manipulation of her daughter and granddaughter also benefits Rosa’s situation. The fact that I’m still asking these questions is a testament to how well Bronsky uses her unreliable narrator. It’s possible to see though Rosa’s lies, to some extent. But the fact that the entire story is presented from her point of view keeps things just opaque enough that Rosa remains a complex character enough to avoid stereotypes.

The Same Old Story, by Ivan Goncharov

I used to joke that prozac, if invented before 1800, would have wiped out the entire Romantic movement. After reading Ivan Goncharov’s serio-comic novel, The Same Old Story (translated by Stephen Pearl), I’m more convinced than ever than Romantics (even if they produced great art) could have used a little therapy. Originally published in 1848, The Same Old Story, tells the tale of naive and Romantic Alexander Aduyev and his highly practice uncle, Pyotr, as they clash on how to live the best life and how to love.

Alexander has been spoiled all his life. His mother and servants have always attended to his every need. His mother in particular and his first love, Sophia, praised his writing to the skies. But when he moves to St. Petersburg from the country to do something with his life, Alexander suddenly learns that life is a lot more difficult when people insist on not living up to his expectations—mostly informed by Greek epics and Romantic poetry.

His only ally in St. Petersburg is his uncle, whose personality is almost the complete opposite of Alexander’s. Pyotr believes in keeping a steady head, planning for the future, and working his way up the table of ranks. Most of The Same Old Story is written in dialog between the two men as they argue back and forth about what love and life should be. Unlike the dialog in, say, War and Peace, the two make jokes and tease to lighten the mood every now and then while they philosophize. Still, Alexander falls in and out of depression with his changes of fortune, and these can get a little wearying.

The Same Old Story covers eight years in Alexander’s life as he (sort of) grows up and learns to leave some of his high expectations behind. We get to see him fall in love only to have his heart broken, then have another woman fall more deeply in love with him than he was prepared for. We watch him as he realizes that he doesn’t have the talent to become an instant literary phenomenon or the patience to earn acclaim the hard way. But was also get to see Alexander’s effect on his uncle, who slowly realizes, that love, happiness, and emotion can make life worth living.

I enjoyed The Same Old Story. It was kind of refreshing to read a contemporary of the late Romantics take potshots at their overwrought displays of emotion. Not only that, but I was happy to discover that there are other funny Russian writers apart from Gogol and Teffi.

I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley for review consideration. It will be released 30 March 2017.