The Tsar of Love and Techno (Chechnya)

book coverby Anthony Marra

Spokane is Reading book for November, 2016

Every November in Spokane, the public library partners with Auntie’s Bookstore to bring the entire city together to share the experience of reading the same book. So my book group read this book in November, and here I am posting about it in February.

It’s a collection of linked short stories in which the same characters weave (some drunkenly) throughout.

What’s Your Fave?

I think my favorite short story was the one narrated by a group of village girls telling the story of one of them, Galya (Galina) who had succeeded in her career as a ballerina, become the lover of a mobster, and become a superstar. Of course, she came to a sticky end.

Mountains Or maybe my favorite story was the first one, that of an art restorer whose job is to edit historical photographs for the communist regime and make disgraced party officials disappear. He has betrayed his own brother in order to get ahead, and to punish himself (and the regime) he secretly adds his brother to every photograph he works on. Of course, he in his turn is betrayed.

Or maybe my favorite story was the one about the two soldiers who get captured by an old man, who treats them more kindly than their own regiment, and makes them go down a well and pretend to be mistreated whenever their former officer swings by. Of course, one of them steps on a land mine and blows himself sky high just as it seems he is about to be happy.

map of the countryThere are no happy endings here. I did not particularly enjoy the book–nor, I think, did anyone else–but as so often happens in book group, it made for a great discussion. And I emerged at the end happy that I had read the book, and thinking more highly of it than I had when I finished it.

I like Chechnya and Chechynians. I just didn’t care for this book. I’m not keen on short stories and I don’t like Oprah Book Club-esque depressing tales. So, I’m only going to give this book two white towers.

men of the countryThe two towers that loom ominously over all these characters, a reminder of Chernobyl and the unspeakable pollution of our planet. The End.

Mixed Reviews
PS–Someone in my book group said there is a mixed tape (like the one of the book cover) that the author made while writing the book. You can listen to the selections on You Tube I think. They listened to it while reading the book and felt it added to the experience.

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