Tuesday, July 20, 2010

REVIEW: The Russian Dreambook of Color and Flight, by Gina Ochsner

The Russian Dreambook of Color and Flight, by Gina Ochsner. Published 2009 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Literary Fiction.

The Russian Dreambook of Color and Flight is a delightful, sad, bittersweet and ultimately winning book about three families living in a grim apartment building in a desolate corner of the former Soviet Union- one Jewish, one Russian Orthodox and one Muslim.

The narrative goes back and forth between this varied cast of characters but centers on Tanya, a mousy and introverted artist working as a coat-check girl at a dilapidated museum. She lives with her shrewish grandmother and pines after her neighbor Yuri, who lives with his mother Olga, a translator, and his prickly girlfriend Zoya. Their neighbor Azade is recently widowed and her late husband Mircha just refuses to go quietly, while her son Vitek asserts himself as a petty gangster.

From all this drama emerges an engaging story mixing both grim and magical realism, politics and culture, scatology and high art. Tanya makes most of the museum's exhibits herself, and is tasked with entertaining a group of Americans considering making a large donation. Word of the Americans and their money spreads through this community and their arrival precipitates a comedic fallout that no one expects.

I thought The Russian Dreambook was a charming and wonderful book about people, and a country, trying to find its way in the wake of collapse. Most things about day to day life haven't changed for these characters but somehow they're unmoored and searching, for love, for meaning, for resolution. At the heart of the book is Tanya's sweet and unlikely love for Yuri, who maybe knows, and maybe just needs a little persuasion, that she's really the girl for him. You'd have to have a heart of stone not to root for her dreams to come true.

Rating: BUY

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for review from the publisher.

9 comments:

bermudaonion said...

This sounds fabulous - I'm sure I'd be rooting for Tanya.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I'm so glad you liked this - I have also read not so good reviews, but they still intrigued me about it, and I already have it, so I hope I like it as you do!

Zibilee said...

I have this book and have read varying reviews on it. I am glad you liked it, and I am thinking that I probably will too. I love good magical realism and have been looking for a book that does it well for some time now. Great review, Marie! I will have to let you know what I think of it!

Coffee and a Book Chick said...

When you mentioned magical realism, I knew that my future events would involve adding this to my list when next I go hunting for another book to read. Sigh, the book buying, ordering, piling up on shelves never ends...not that I would it to! Thanks for posting this!

Sandra said...

Sounds good to me. I have reserved it at my library and look forward to reading it.

Marie said...

Kathy, I think you would!

Jill, Zibilee, I'm surprised it got some bad reviews. It's a great book.

Coffee, I hope you like it!

Sandra, I think you'll like it :-)

Mystica said...

I will also back Tanya. Thanks for this review.

JoAnn said...

This sounds like a book I'd enjoy (despite the mention of magical realism) - thanks for bringing it to my attention!

Jen (Devourer of Books) said...

I'm glad you liked this, because I have it and have only read negative reviews lately, which was worrying me.