Friday, June 23, 2017

Reading on Russia

While Russia seems to be in the news every day, I'd thought I'd put together a reading list of books set in and about Russia.  Perhaps you might want to add these to your summer reading list.

I'm starting off with my book that, surprisingly, has much to do about Russia.

I went to St. Petersburg, Russia to research and photograph THE STORY OF SEEDS: FROM MENDEL'S GARDEN TO YOUR PLATE, AND HOW THERE'S MORE OF LESS TO EAT AROUND THE WORLD. Having grown up during the Cold War, I never imagined I would be visiting there, let alone on a research trip to a government facility. I had the unique opportunity to visit the Vavilov Research Institute, the world's first global seed bank. You can read about how this important facility survived during the WWII's Leningrad Siege and how Nikolai Vavilov created something so valuable that countries, including the US, are still benefiting from it today. It is a story of bravery, science, and vision!

M.T. Anderson's SYMPHONY FOR THE CITY OF THE DEAD: DMITRI SHOSTAKOVICH AND THE SIEGE OF LENINGRAD's focuses on a different voice of the Leningrad Siege -- that of a Russian composer. Like my story, it highlights the courage and bravery of Leningrad's citizens during this terrifying period of history. The story is brilliantly told and well-researched.

This year marks the centennial of the Russian Revolution. There is one marvelous book that is a must-read -- THE FAMILY ROMANOV: MURDER, REBELLION, AND THE FALL OF IMPERIAL RUSSIA by Candace Fleming. This YA book offers readers a riveting story of the Russian royal family and the circumstances that led to their demise. Wonderfully written and impeccably researched, this book is a treat in both its written form and in audio. (I personally loved the audio version!)

I reviewed THE LOST CROWN for the Historical Novel Society in 2011 -- Sarah Miller’s well-researched novel, The Lost Crown, gives beautiful, honest voices to the teen daughters of Tsar Nicholas II in the years of their imprisonment following his abdication.   Faithful Tatiana, thoughtful Olga, comforting Maria and spunky Anastasia are brought to life within the pages of this moving young adult novel.  Knowing the fate of these girls does not make this an easy read, but certainly worthwhile.  I began reading the book in the evening and it did not leave my head until I finished it the next morning. Each chapter is told in alternating voices with a small photo of each narrator on the chapter’s first page. 
Readers may find themselves comparing these historic events to recent headlines.  As exile options dwindle for deposed leaders, many of them struggle to hold on to their sovereignty.  Tsar Nicholas’ daughters, once privileged and protected, lived under house arrest for years before meeting their brutal fate.  Bewildered by the growing hatred towards them, Sarah Miller portrays the life the girls lived behind painted windows and unlocked doors. 

Here are a few more to add to your reading list:

Please feel free to add additional titles in the comments! Spasibo!  (That is one of the few words I learned for my trip! The rest is already forgotten.)

Happy reading!


1 comment:

Unknown said...

These are books on Russia that I've recommended in my reviews or just like.

1. "Lenin's Tomb" by David Remnick

2. "Empire of the Czar', also known as "A Journey of Our Time" by Marquis De Custine

3. "The Noise of Time" by Julian Barnes

4. "Memories from Moscow to the Black Sea" by Teffi

5. "Tolstoy, Rasputin, Others and Me" by Teffi

6. "Speak, Memory" by Nabokov

7. "Hope Against Hope" and "Hope Abandoned" by Nadezhda Mandelstam

8. The Collected Poems of Anna Akhmatova

9. "Secondhand Time: The Last of the Soviets" by Svetlana Alexievich

10. Anything written by Joseph Brodsky

In October, NY Review Books is publishing a new translation of Marina Tsvetaeva's Diaries.

Biographies of Louisa Adams include chapters on her journey by carriage from St. Petersburg to Paris trying to stay ahead of Napoleon's army. She wrote about it but I haven't located it.