Friday, March 29, 2013

Book Review: There Once Lived A Girl Who Seduced Her Sister's Husband, And He Hanged Himself by Lyudmila Petrushevskaya

I've had Petrushevskaya on my TBR list since her first US-published work (There Once Lived A Woman Who Tried to Kill Her Neighbor's Baby) gained press in the US as NY Times Book Review best seller and won some fantasy awards.  When I got a chance to review this book, her second US-published collection of short stories, I jumped on it.  Petrushevskaya is a well known author of literary fiction and short stories in Russia and is gaining prominence in the US.  This collection includes stories written throughout her career, each of which focuses on love in some shape or form and which are generally set in post-revolutionary Russia.

I feel totally unqualified to evaluate the writing in this book, since my experience with Russian literature is limited almost exclusively to Crime and Punishment.  I was largely motivated to read the book because of my lack of knowledge of Russian literature, but I think that also really limits my ability to critique the writing.  So bear in mind that I am far, far from an expert.

That said, I wasn't really blown away by the writing like it seems many reviewers were.  This could largely be due to my ignorance of Russian writing and what is lost in translation, but I just didn't see anything particularly appealing in the writing.  It was very simplistic and at many point dreary.  I felt like there was something there, but I wasn't fully grasping it.  There was a disconnect for me that kept me from fully grasping WHY this is exceptional writing.

Entertainment Value
All of the stories were interesting and easy to read, but as with the writing, I felt like there was something I was missing.  I liked them, but I didn't love them the way I usually love short stories.

I wasn't compelled to keep reading the way I was with Tenth of December or Shout Her Lovely Name, but I did find the book interesting.  Also, I plan on continuing to explore Russian literature and see if my understanding changes any.  I have the author's collection of fairy tale style stories on my TBR and definitely plan on trying them as soon as I get a copy of the book.

1 comment:

  1. Great title to grab you. I don't enjoy short stories so will pass.