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Found 7 results

  1. The Eighth Life (for Brilka) is a phenomenal novel – right up there with the best of the best. If it’s not my all-time favourite novel (and it might be) then it must be in the top three or four. Set over more than a hundred years in Georgia, we follow six generations of the Jashi family. There is the patriarch, a chocolate maker who creates a mystical recipe for hot chocolate that tastes divine but curses those who drink it. Generation after generation, the Jashis partake of the chocolate. The hundred years span the Great October Socialist Revolution, Stalin’s purges, t
  2. Farewell, Mama Odessa is a musing on migration, displacement and the strange world of Soviet bureaucracy. The blurb speaks of telling the stories of adjustment to a new life in the free world. The focus, though, is very much more on the circumstances that led to two Jewish men independently to seek to emigrate to the West: Boris, a young journalist who is unable to report as he would wish on the failings of the state; and Yurik, an average guy who has been caught with stolen leather to support his private sideline of making shoes. Fully half the book is taken with the back stories
  3. Review of Shadows on the Tundra by Dalia Grinkeviciute, translated by Delija Valiukenas This is the memoirs of the first year or so of when the author, her mother and brother were part of the mass deportations of Stalin's Soviet Union from Lithuania to a gulag inside the Arctic Circle on the Leptev Sea. (There is a map at the start of the book showing the journey). She was 14 at the time This isn't an easy read, this is full of hardship and struggle through very difficult situation. However, while not easy, I think it was an excellent read and Grinkeviciute does a great
  4. Defectors. 1961 - a community of Western double agents, exposed and living in exile in Moscow. Notorious back home, avoided in Moscow. As one of them says, Moscow is the kind of place where you keep top yourself. So they meet up every night in hotel bars, discussing old times and trying to trap one another into making damaging statements. The spectre of Stalin hangs over everything; nobody quite sure whether Khrushchev’s new freedoms are real or not. The exception is Frank Weeks. A former CIA agent, he has found a new role as a senior KGB officer, moving with apparent ease and conf
  5. It’s a little known fact that during the Communist era, a small cohort of western migrants lived in the USSR. Not all were former spies; some were trade unionists and socialist activists who believed in the project and felt alienated in their homelands. And, of course, their families… What the Light Reveals tells the story of one such family. It is the 1950s. Conrad Murphy is an Australian socialist whose name features in a Soviet document that was passed to ASIO by a Soviet double agent. He is then summoned to give evidence to the Inquiry into Soviet Espionage, at which point his life in A
  6. The Zoo is a farcical romp through the last days of Stalin’s reign of terror in the Soviet Union. Yuri is a twelve year old boy who claims to have suffered some form of brain damage as a child, leaving him a functional idiot. He can see everything that goes on around him, he can learn facts, but he hasn’t the guile to understand people. Yuri takes everyone at face value, all the time. By a quirk of fate, he ends up meeting Stalin who likes having a confidant he can trust completely. So he immediately appoints Yuri to be his food taster, thereby necessitating Yuri’s witnessing of the last days
  7. All That Is Solid Melts Into Air is a fictionalisation of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster and its impact on a group of families who were connected or become connected. It is a complex work relying on multiple points of view and different strands that connect the narratives. But, incredibly, it works. The complexity never confuses; Darragh McKeon keeps all the balls in the air, never colliding. This is fiction. The reader has to keep remembering that, because the level of detail gives an authenticity and authority of a work of factual documentary. We don’t know for sure how people responded whe
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