First, an apology to these authors. While I have been haunting and at time commenting about my reads on the Tweets, I haven’t spent nearly enough time here… doing the book reviews. So let’s catchup!
Earlier, around the time I returned from ALA MW (the American Librarians big winter conference with an absolutely massive stack of books, I developed decision fatigue and could not for the life of me pick up any one book. So I did what any vaguely messed up human does and avoided all the goodness. And then I heard about this crazy sounding novel and broke my malaise by buying the Audible of Vita Nostra, a Russian novel released recently in translation. OH MY! I was totally entranced. Since the novel starts with Sasha(Sacha? – spelling is the one trouble with audio novels) as a Highschool student, the genre would be appropriate in Young Adult. There are limited but significant mentions of sex and drinking and smoking, so if that bums you out, take a pass here. But the complexity and intrigue means that it should cross over nicely into sci-fi and Realistic Adult Fiction.
This was a commute listen for me and yes, there were times I sat at my arrival spot and didn’t get out of the car immediately. The narration was superb, something special in that all the Russian names/words came through with all their cultural, symphonic glory while the translated English was completely immersive. The translation was IN-CRED-IBLE. The story made absolute sense while still preserving its geographic roots. It had a little magical realism and sci/fi and even a little philosophy (in the form of existential questioning of self) so I was sold. I was taken with how effectively I was unable to pin point the story’s place in our timeline. I just don’t know enough about today’s Russia to compare and that was a harsh realization in some ways. I loved Sacha/Sasha, our protagonist. I loved and wanted to be her, and to NOT be her. It was hard to decide. And I adored the slice of Russian life, time scrambled as it was. I left feeling like I had visited. So if you read only one Russian novel this year, forget Tolstoy, and read the more relevant, entertaining, and possibly modern Vita Nostra. Inquiring minds want to know… will there be more novels about the Institute?
#vitanostra @thedyachenkos @simonbooks @juliameihersey