Russka Review

3-star rating
Russka novel cover

I have mixed feelings about this book. Certainly, Edward Rutherfurd’s 760 page doorstop of a novel has its good points, but ultimately I came away unsatisfied.

“Ambitious” is a good way to describe the effort. After all, in order to tell “The Novel of Russia,” as the book is subtitled, Rutherfurd chose to cover the period from 180 A.D. to 1990. To make this Michener-esque task manageable, he follows generations of the Bobrov family (and a few others) through each major historical period of this vast country. Of course, that means that he also ends up with a vast, Game of Thrones-size cast. Generally, he handles this well: the major characters are all well developed and distinctive, which is no small task. More on the characters later.

The book starts slowly, and by the end of the first chapter, about a small village located at the edge of the Russian steppe, and the future site of one of two towns named Russka, I almost put the book down. I simply wasn’t interested in the characters or their subsistence farming life. The quality of the writing was just good enough for me to be willing to continue.

For the next several chapters, Rutherfurd follows the development of Russia through the eras of the fall of the Roman Empire, the Holy Roman Empire, and the rise of Constantinople and the Orthodox Church. He clearly did a lot of research on these eras, and wants to make sure readers see the full result of all of it. I could have done with less. Ivan the Terrible and Peter the Great, who was just as terrible as Ivan in his own ways, get their turns on stage.

To read the rest of the review, please click here.

4 comments on “Russka Review

  1. moomin102 says:

    Thankyou Ross: Hope you had a wonderful holiday.
    The book sounds interesting but long. I fear long anything these days given my age and the times. An old friend sent me a scholarly tome on the Frankfurt School. Epistemology was a common interest back in my S.F. days and 10-20 years back I might have taken the time. I really cared about this stuff at one time. Amazing!
    I’ve started some shorts after a long long delay. Hope to see more of your posts.

    • Thanks for your comment! To be sure, Russka IS long, but it’s well-enough written that one can become engaged with the characters, at least after you get past the first chapter. Yes, some of the characters are not particularly attractive, but flaws are what make characters interesting, aren’t they? And they all have good as well as not-so-good (or flat-out bad) sides. So if you have the time to read a lot, and enjoy historical fiction, you may surprise yourself and get through this big work faster than you ever thought you might.

      Or you might decide that it looks like more fun than you want to try to have.

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