Saturday, March 31, 2012

Sign Up!

Just a reminder: Dewey's Readathon is happening. April 21. I've signed up, the Hubster has signed up, it's gonna be a thing. I didn't even have to work that weekend, so no special arrangements had to be made. This is my favorite blogosphere event, and I look so forward to it every six months! I'll be reading and blogging up a storm. To sign up, visit the dedicated blog. Hope you decide to join us!!!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Review: Season of Ash by Jorge Volpi

I received this book from LibraryThing, as part of their Early Reviewer program. It's taken me a while to get to it, as I've gotten distracted by reading other things (and by doing things other than reading).

So, what is this book about? It's going to be hard for me to describe. The story stretches from the late 1920's to the early 2000's, following (primarily) three women: Jennifer Moore, uptight economist working for the IMF; Eva Halasz, free-spirited computer scientist, jumping from man to man, trying to keep her outsized intelligence employed; and Irina Granin, a Soviet biologist, living through the fall of the Soviet Union. We follow each woman independently for most of the book, but the Volpi brings all three women's storylines together at the end. Ostensibly written by Yuri Chernishevsky, after he murders Eva Halasz (this is disclosed VERY early in the book, so I'm not giving anything away), the book takes readers from the Chernobyl disaster through the fall of Communism and the rise of capitalism in the former USSR, and also works in the development of the Human Genome Project, as well. Volpi name drops Russian and American politicians and biologists throughout.

I mostly enjoyed the book while I was reading it, but I found it hard to go back to, once I'd put it down. I mostly went back to it to discover Yuri's reasons for murdering Eva, but when the revelation came, it was somewhat anticlimactic. I think it would have helped to have been better versed in Russian history (especially the history of the late 20th century), but I did learn a lot from what I read in the novel. I have a much better understanding of the meaning of perestroika and glasnost and how the fall of the Soviet Union was orchestrated than I ever did in my school days (when I was living through it!). Part of my issue with the novel was that there wasn't enough action. I like plot-based books and this was much more of a character study...not least the character of the swiftly changing USSR. I think I just needed more action to keep me involved.

I would have to give this novel three out of five Whatevers. Good, but not excellent. There were a lot of typos. I don't believe my copy was an ARC, so I don't know how to explain that, and it really bugged me. Recommended for those who like slow-moving, character-based books; for those who have an interest in either Russian history of the late 20th century, or the development of the Human Genome Project; or for those who don't mind a more literary style of writing. (I did like how all major politicians and large cities were almost always modified by a particular phrase. For example, Moscow was "city of wide avenues" and Yeltsin "of strong arms.")