Saturday, 29 December 2012

Christened With Crosses (Eduard Kochergin)

Name: Christened with Crosses
Author: Eduard Kochergin
Published: 2012
Publisher: Glagoslav Publications
Translated By: Simon Patterson / Nina Chordas
Pages: 275
Source: Review copy from Publisher
Genres: Translated Literature, Memoir
Goodreads  |

Christened with Crosses is the true story of Kochergin's childhood in state orphanages in the Soviet Union in the 1940s. Orphaned after his Polish mother is arrested as an "enemy of the people", Eduard Stepanovich (Stepanych) Kochergin, often referred to as Stepanych in the book, finds himself a ward of the state and is transferred to an orphanage in Siberia. After the war has ended, convinced his mother would have been released, Stepanych runs away to return to his home city of Leningrad (St Petersburg). Having to turn himself into an orphanage each winter for shelter and taking approximately six years to cross the Soviet Union, this is the story of one young boy's determination and resilience to return home and be reunited with his mother.

This reads like a road trip adventure novel, although this time the mode of transport is stowing away in freight and passenger trains, and the side stories include getting in with some train robbers, meeting forest people and trying not to get caught by authorities. The State run orphanages are what you'd expect; oppressive places run by tough leaders who get given nicknames like Toad. Places where a natural hierarchy in the children prevails and one has to find some kind of skill or useful contribution for the elders in order to keep in their favour and out of trouble.

Kochergin doesn't over emotionalise his time at the orphanage which makes this less of a memoir and more just simply a great story. His descriptions of people, places and events are so vivid that you forget sometimes that this is a recollection from a young boy's life. He meets some incredible people along the way including his first friend; Mityai, a blind boy who was severely injured during a German plane attack on the passenger train he was traveling in, none of his family survived. Together they must fight against those who would steal Mityai to use as pity fodder for begging. He also meets forest dwellers who teach him survival skills and another orphan who is trying to return home also.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, it is both a fantastic story and a moving memoir at the same time. The author (or potentially it was the translator who added these footnotes in) does well to expand on a few terms and name variations that may be common in Russian and Polish culture but would not be known by a wider audience. These footnotes are done very well and work to enhance the story. The most fun part about reading this book? Pulling out an atlas and following along the trail of his journey on the map.

Ultimately if you are looking for an adventure book, are interested in the Soviet Union, have never tried translated literature and want to try it out, or quite simply are looking for a great read then this is the book for you.

Read It

Monday, 24 December 2012

Merry Christmas 2012

Merry Christmas to all my wonderful followers out there. I hope you all have a fantastic one filled with family, laughter and good food. We have Christmas at my Dad's place this year and it is my niece's first Christmas so I can't wait. I'm franticly getting all the presents wrapped, lunch and dessert contributions made and house cleaned. But mostly I'm just listening to all the Christmas music on the radio. Love it!

The last couple of weeks have been great in the book department. At my library book club I received a bag of goodies including a free book, a calendar and some chocolate. Not to mention the coolest bag ever! Eat Sleep Read. Yep that sounds a bit like me.

I then grabbed a bunch from my fav second hand book store including a Janet Frame and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society which I have wanted to read so much because of all the great reviews from some other bloggers.

And then I scored all of these from my other book (sharing) club. Can't wait to sink my teeth into The Grapes of Wrath! I missed the readalong earlier this year so I'll be glad to catch up with you all.

Things may be pretty quiet on here for the next couple of weeks as I make the most of the sun and time with family and friends. But don't worry I won't be too far away.

Merry Christmas everyone!!

Sin (Zakhar Prilepin)

Title: Sin
Author: Zakhar Prilepin
Published: 2012 (first published 2007)
Publisher: Glagoslav Publications
Translated: Simon Patterson / Nina Chordas
Pages: 272
Source: Review copy
Genres: Translated Literature
Goodreads  |

Sin is the story of Prilepin's life told in a series of short stories in non-chronological order. From a hard drinking grave digger, to a young boy, a soldier in Chechnya and a father, each chapter tells some aspect of Prilepin's life. Translated from Russian and published by UK based Glagoslav Publications, this award winning Russian novel is trying to break into a new market.

I really liked the unique structure of this book. Some may find it difficult but I liked how it was simply a series of snippets of a life rather than a chronological auto-biography, it made a far more intriguing read. Not all of this book blends well as a story, some of the individual stories jumped around a little and were a bit hard to follow but overall I enjoyed it. Prilepin is a very poetic writer and even includes a poem chapter in his novel. Unfortunately I'm not great with poetry but somehow it seemed to work.

I'll admit this isn't the easiest of reads, I think anyone who is new to translated literature or does not enjoy a more abstract story-telling may struggle with this, but it's a good book for those interested in translated literature and especially those who are interested in Russian culture. This is not a light read, some of the stories were hard to read as it was not an easy life. I haven't read any Russian literature before and this novel pleasantly surprised me.

There were a few spelling and grammatical errors which I hope will be ironed out in final publications (I received a review copy) but it didn't detract from the story and overall the the translation was very good.

Try It

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Man and Boy (Tony Parsons)

Title: Man and Boy
Author: Tony Parsons
Published: 2000
Publisher: Harper Collins
Pages: 344
Source: Own copy
Genres: Contemporary Fiction
Goodreads  |

Man and Boy is the story of 30 year old Harry Silver. With a loving wife, a young son and a fantastic job he seems to have it all but one single act turns his world upside down and he becomes a single father trying to juggle parenthood and work and having to come to turns with the decisions he makes in his life.

This book is touted as being both humorous and heart warming and it didn't really hit me on either level. I did find it interesting to explore the thoughts and decisions of a man who is thrust into single parenthood, someone trying to do the best he can by his son while trying to work out his own life. But at the same time I found it hard to feel for the guy when it was his own stupid decisions that put him there in the first place.

On top of that, I have to admit something, I'm a bit of a romantic. I do love the whole idea of your one true love and although happily ever after doesn't always make a great book I can't go past a book with a brilliant enduring love sort of plot. Which meant that this book about falling in and out of love, divorces and second marriages was a little difficult for me. I wonder what that says about me? Maybe I don't live in the real world, or maybe I just see enough of it in the real world that I don't like to escape to it in my books.

Ultimately I didn't get very invested in the characters or their story and didn't find enough wit or emotion to hold my attention on this one.

Skip It

Thursday, 6 December 2012

New site discovery - Small Demons

Yesterday I cam across a new website that I am loving. It's called Small Demons ( and its goal is to connect everything (people, places, food...) from books in one big mega information site.

It's incredible. Want to find book excerpts where The Great Gatsby is mentioned? Or find out what Curd Vadai looks like - a food talked about in Life of Pi. Or all the bands that were mentioned in A Visit from the Goon Squad? Maybe you want to discover the 254 odd books that mention Mahatma Gandhi. The possibilities are endless.

And if you find something missing? Simply Contribute and become a part of the site.

If you haven't encountered Small Demons yet, check it out.