Tag Archives: Ludmilla Petrushevskaya

A Short Story Collection Question…

So far we are four days in to 2012 and I have yet to do a book review. This is in part because I have read two utterly corking books (and one not so but very thought provoking indeed) that really need my thoughts ever the more honed on them before I put them out in the ether, in part because tomorrows post is about blog changes and I think reviews should follow that and also because my reading had been delightfully higgledy piggledy as I have been multi-reading from three short story collections…

  

Now I won’t talk about these collections further for now, but reading them has shown me something. I don’t read them in the right order, though what the right order in a short story collection is can be debateable, as set by whomever edited them. I all three cases I have taken the longest of Susan Hill/Ludmilla Putreshevskaya/Dan Rhodes stories (I have just noticed how brilliant these three collections titles are), followed by the shortest before leaving the title story (or the most appealing titled story) till the end. I am worried this is the wrong thing to do.

Is there and right and wrong way to read a short story collection? Over to you…

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Through The Wall – Ludmilla Petrushevskaya

Amidst all of the hospital visits and all that palaver of late I was lucky enough to have a visit from the lovely Novel Insights. Seeing one of your best friends, for we have been friends since the tender age of four years old, when you are going through a lot is just the job and indeed it was. We had coffee, gossiped a lot and, in relation to this blog,  swapped a book or two (and in Novel Insights case bought a few more under my bad influence) one of which was the Penguin Mini-Classics ‘Through The Wall’ by Ludmilla Petrushevskaya.

I had never heard of Ludmilla Petrushevskaya until I was lent this short and fascinating selection. In ‘Through The Wall’ a collection of five short stories Penguin, the publishers, have given any new reader to the author a really interesting selection of her work. Each one of these tales, actually bar ‘Through The Wall’ which is much more linear and less surreal, reads like a dark little fairy story which packs its own punch and has much more to say for itself than might initially meet the eye.

Babies and parenthood seems to be the biggest theme to the book. ‘Through The Wall’ itself features Alexander’s time in hospital and the things he can hear through the wall behind his bed. First a couple and then soon a family both have a profound affect on Alexander especially when there is a new born child in the latter case. Sounds like I am being vague, but it’s a very short tale and one out of the whole collection that I am still trying to piece together. ‘The Father’  tells of a man who has lost his children, though you wonder if he had any in the first place, until a woman tells him that he must venture by train  to the ‘Fortieth Kilometer’ which leads him to a mysterious wood and possibly all the answers.

‘The Cabbage-Patch Mother’ marks a slight change in the stories and here the collection becomes slightly more surreal and fairytale like, even though all the tales start with ‘once there was a man/woman’. We read of a woman who finds her baby ‘Droplet’ in a cabbage patch (which made me think of the old saying which I am sure it was inspired by) yet her daughter will never grow and doctors will not treat her. As the tale unwinds, involving a mysterious hermit, we hear of the mother’s previous failed pregnancies and I wondered if this was at heart what the story was about, a mother’s fears during pregnancy and the turbulence afterwards? Maybe I am reading too much into it as I did with the longest tale ‘Marilena’s Secret’ (which is rather a romp about twins who are turned into one giant fat woman at the hand of a wicked wizard they reject) and how it looks at the outer person and the inner personality?

I was wondering if this would be a rather feminist collection (not that that would have mattered) but from writing in both sexes, and the final tale ‘Anna and Maria’ is written by a man who can only work magic on people he doesn’t love, which when his wife starts to die he tries to cheat, proves with ‘The Father’ that she can write women and men just as well. This is a wonderful surreal, dark, gripping and often thought provoking selection. You could look deeply into every tale in this collection if I am honest or you could simply just read them for the enjoyment. It’s not wonder I now want to read much more of her novels now is it? 9/10

If you haven’t tried Ludmilla then I would definitely give her whirl. I have heard she is proclaimed as one of Russia’s greatest living writers but until I saw Polly’s review, and then with her subsequent loaning of the novel, I had never heard of her. I really want to read the collection ‘There Once Lived a Woman Who Tried to Kill Her Neighbour’s Baby’. I wonder how many other wonderful authors we simply don’t hear about. Any you would care to share?

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February’s Incomings…

I do love those lists that some bloggers have down the side of their blogs where  the jacket covers of all the incomings that they have received or are receiving as the weeks go on can be seen. Sadly, though I am sure that there is one on wordpress, I have no idea how to do such a thing and as I started one last month I thought I would do another end of month post (which might become a monthly feature) of the books that have arrived this month. Now if you don’t like these sort of posts fear not as you can discuss the pro’s and con’s of big books with me today on this post here instead. However if you love these posts, as I do on other blogs, then lets take a gander at what has been quite a crop of books.

First up it’s the hardbacks and as you will see while a lot of books do come from publishers some are treats from other lovely people, or simply treats from me.

  • Snowdrops by A.D. Miller – This is a book I had been told was winging its way to me and I got very excited about and then the mail man mislaid it. Now it’s here and over the next week or so I am going to be throwing myself into Russia which is a country that fascinates me and yet I know very, very little about. I am wondering if the atmosphere, which is meant to be incredible in this novel, will send me off to read some of the Russian greats.
  • Beautiful Forever by Helen Rappaport – This came out last year and is non-fiction about “Madame Rachel of Bond Street – cosmetician, con-artist and blackmailer” true life Victorian dastardly goings on, what could be more me. This was a belated Xmas pressie from my mother which she brought down last week.
  • One of Our Tuesdays is Missing by Jasper Fforde – The latest Thursday Next novel and a timely reminder I need to start at the beginning (I wanted to see him at Waterstones tomorrow but I will be in hospital, grrr).
  • The Tenderloin by John Butler – a Green Carnation Prize submission from Picador.
  • The Path of Minor Planets by Andrew Sean Greer – One of Faber and Faber’s entries for the Green Carnation Prize. (Publishers are really onto it early this year – hoorah!)
  • Mrs Fry’s Diary by Mrs Stephen Fry – I bought this at Sainsbury’s for £3 on a whim as thought might make me laugh at hospital.
  • Sleeping With Mozart by Anthea Church – I was thrilled when Virago got in touch and asked me to read this but sadly I didn’t care for it much and as I don’t like doing negative reviews it’s leaving me in a real quandary, to write about or not to write about? Hmmm!
  • Darkside by Belinda Bauer – I loved Belinda’s debut ‘Blacklands’ and having been in a crime mood this was ideal. Thoughts will be up tomorrow (if everything works right) on this murder mystery.
  • Ape House by Sara Gruen – After reading ‘Water for Elephants’ for book group and loving it, I am thrilled that Sarah’s publishers Two Roads wanted me to give her latest a whirl.
  • Cedilla by Adam Mars-Jones – This is the second Faber entry for the Green Carnation so far and its HUGE (I am talking big books later) and one I am looking forward to as it’s the sequel to the rather marvellous ‘Pilcrow’ though I will be judging it as a stand alone book of course.

Phew that’s quite a few. Onto paperbacks which have been arriving thick and fast. I haven’t included the Jo Nesbo parcel which arrived and I mentioned before, nor have I included the two rather large shopping spree’s which I undertook in February both on a visit to Granny Savidge in Matlock and on a day out in Yorkshire earlier this month. Shame on me, still somehow I managed to buy a few in this lot too.

  • Through The Wall by Ludmilla Petrushevskaya – The lovely Novel Insights brought me this Penguin Mini Classic last week on a visit as she thought it would be right up my street. I have a feeling she will be spot on.
  • Heat & Dust by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala – A booker prize charity shop find for 50p. I have said I do intend to read all the winners at some point and have devoured this one so expect thoughts soon.
  • The Novel in the Viola by Natasha Solomons – I really enjoyed ‘Mr Rosenblum’s List’ when I read it last year and actually chattered and nattered to Natasha when she was working on this one so I know a bit about the plot and it sounded fascinating so I have everything crossed this will be a corker.
  • The Bride That Time Forgot by Paul Magrs – The latest Brenda and Effie adventure in paperback, again reminding me I am slightly behind with this series. I also have a spare so expect a give away at some point.
  • Where The Serpent Lives by Ruth Padel – I know nothing of this book but isn’t she the lady that caused a lot of controversy over something and nothing?
  • South Riding by Winifred Holtby – I have devoured this one and my thoughts on it are here.
  • The Surrendered by Chang-Rae Lee – Another book I know nothing about but having read the quotes and page 29 (all the blurb says is ‘read page 29’) this looks like it could be an astounding book.
  • Slammerkin by Emma Donoghue – As you will all know I loved ‘Room’ and this is a reissued copy of her earlier historical novel (I am hoping it’s a Victorian romp) which I am excited about. I have already got an American edition of this which I am now handing over to Granny Savidge Reads who, after reading ‘Room’, is a Donoghue fan too.
  • The Hare with Amber Eyes by Edmund De Waal – I so wasn’t bothered about this when it came out but since winning the Costa Prize and having heard about it all over the place when it arrived I was super chuffed and have started dipping into it already.
  • The Magnificent Spilsbury and the Case of the Brides in the Bath by Jane Robins – I do like true historical crime, modern stuff makes me feel uncomfortable in general – too close to home maybe, but this sounds like its right up my street. Maybe not one to read in the bath though?
  • 31 Bond Street by Ellen Horan – I bought this in Sainsbury’s, bad me, partly because the cover is so good and also thinking it was non-fiction from the blurb, wrong. I will give it a whirl though and see.
  • Half a Life by Darin Strauss – A memoir about accidental murder. I had to sign a confidence clause before I could get the proof for this and then forgot the date had been and gone so will schedule my thoughts to be shared soon.
  • The Long Song by Andrea Levy – I have already read this, however it’s a book group choice in the next few months and I’d had mine signed for my Gran so a new one has magically turned up. I am actually really looking forward to re-reading this one even so soon after I originally did.
  • Dog Binary by Alex MacDonald – I don’t know anything about this, it came with Half a Life.
  • Trick of the Dark by Val McDermid – I am hoping this is another entry for the Green Carnation Prize as we do want a mixture of genres, I don’t think the other judges have had this one though so I will have to check. I have heard McDermid is very good at murder so this should be good.

So lots of books to read while I am in waiting rooms, hospital wards and in bed when I get home over the next few weeks or so which is an utter delight. I wonder how much of a dent in them I will make. I also really need to have a fresh cull and clear out too. It never stops. Have you read any of these books and if so what did you think? Any you would like to see me give priority to if the whim takes me?

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