Wednesday, November 10, 2010

REVIEW: The Dacha Husband, by Ivan Shcheglov

The Dacha Husband, by Ivan Shcheglov. Published 2009 by Northwestern University Press. Literary Fiction. Translated from the Russian.

The Dacha Husband is a short satire of bourgeois married life in nineteenth century Russia, centering on a couple with a home in the country and a husband who works in the city. As the railway grew in Russia during this time, such arrangements were common. The characters in Shcheglov's little comedy are archetypes and stereotypes- the overworked, harried man and the silly, spoiled, social-climbing wife. Think of it as Madame Bovary from the husband's persepctive, but written as a comedy.

The book is broken up into several parts, including an introduction to the concept of the dacha husband, a sort of philosophical meditation on the subject and a melodrama about what happens when the couple takes a vacation to a spa and the wife encounters handsome hangers-on vying for her attention. Let's just say matrimonial bliss is not in the cards for these two. I will say that I found some of the comedy to be slightly misogynistic from time to time, determined as our narrator is to portray himself as a martyr and his wife as an ungrateful wretch. But it's supposed to be funny and for the most part it is.

Read as part of Russo-Biblio-Extravaganza
So who should read The Dacha Husband? I'd suggest it to people who like satires and black comedy. Readers with any kind of semi-serious interest in Russian literature would find it worthwhile. It depicts the rise of the middle class in a way that I haven't really seen before and its characters are all unlikeable in one way or another as the book depicts a hollowed-out marriage based on material goods and consumerism. If you wanted to find a serious message here it's probably possible but for the most part it's just a light little after-dinner mint of a novel.

Rating: BEACH

FTC Disclosure: I did not receive this book for review.


Jeanne said...

Hee, how can I resist a book described as Madame Bovary from the husband's perspective and written as a comedy?!!

Zibilee said...

I think that I would enjoy this, but might be a little turned off by the misogynistic overtones. I do like black comedies, though, so I am on the fence about this book. I am going to have to think about this and give it some consideration before adding it to my list. Thanks for the thoughtful review!

Col (Col Reads) said...

Having grown up on Long Island, the commuter mentality is fascinating to me. This sounds like something I would be interested in -- and I like to have a "light" read available for busy periods. Thanks for the review!

ImageNations said...

I have enjoyed almost all your thoughts on the Russian-authored novels you have talked about here. And yet I am yet to read one. What a shame.

joemmama said...

Love the after dinner mint description! I think I might like this...thanks!

Suko said...

This book is completely new to me. Thanks for your review! :)