Speedy review of Ludmila Petrushevskaya’s There Once Lived a Girl Who Seduced Her Sister’s Husband, and He Hanged Himself

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I don’t have a chance to write a full review of this book, and I don’t have access to it anymore on NetGalley because I took forever to write this. But:

I read this book, and I really liked it. It seemed to talk about a Russia that doesn’t get written about, and that is real – even if you don’t see it much in the circles I’m in in Moscow at the moment. This collection spans years of writing by Petrushevskaya, and she is very skilled at writing about the little infidelities and disappointments and hopes in life – a good mix of fairly bleak stories that are not, somehow, depressing.

The fact that I read them when I first moved to Moscow, over a really lush breakfast buffet in Hotel Ukraina (a fancy hotel – now a Radisson – that is a symbol of various types of economic progression here), probably made them a bit less depressing. But things in these essays kept coming back to me:

For example, the role of alcohol and drunks in this society, described in emotional depth by Petrushevskaya, pops into my head one day when I am talking to my taxi driver. He had previously worked as the dispatcher for the taxi company, and he tells me that the drivers frequently would go off on drinking binges. For a month at a time. It is an astonishing story, and an astonishing underbelly of a rapidly advancing city (Moscow), if not country.

This book is atmospheric and good writing – recommend it highly.