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Memoirs of a Muse
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Memoirs of a Muse

3.14  ·  Rating Details  ·  302 Ratings  ·  48 Reviews
Tanya is a typical teenager living with her bookish professor mother in a cramped Soviet apartment. She is obsessed with Dostoyevksy, and noticing that he always portrays his mistress and muse in his novels–never his wife–she determines to become a companion to a great writer. Her opportunity comes when, as a college graduate newly emigrated to America, she attends a Manha ...more
ebook, 224 pages
Published December 18th 2007 by Vintage (first published 2006)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 520)
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Jenn
Jun 13, 2007 Jenn rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2006books
There was a lot of relationship angst in this one. I finished it and spent the rest of the day angry with my boyfriend for no good reason.
Susan from MD
Oct 11, 2011 Susan from MD rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I would actually rate this at about 3.5 stars, as it was interesting but uneven. Since it is different than a lot of books I've recently read, I rounded up instead of down. The pacing in the first 75% of the book is fairly slow -- too slow in some places, IMO. The last 25% of the book jumps through major life events with only a sentence/paragraph or two on life-after-muse, so I would have liked a little more detail toward the end, an opportunity to see this somewhat lost girl emerge as a more fu ...more
Tejas Janet
May 29, 2013 Tejas Janet rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013-challenge
I enjoyed this novel and especially the author's writing about identity formation in childhood/early adulthood. She wrote about this with a subtle hand, showing how the protagonist becomes the image in the mirror that she sees held up to her.

But the author also makes us gently aware that the protagonist is looking eagerly into this mirror. Isn't that nearly the picture-perfect definition of adolescence?

I admired the creativity of the plot, which reminded me of something Woody Allen might come u
...more
Yulia
Oct 04, 2007 Yulia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
i would have given this five stars if not for the last sixty pages, which revealed not only awkward moments of dialogue, but the two-dimensionality of her supporting cast. i found myself wondering, is this just chick lit? no, it isn't. it's much smarter, but it did strain credibility many times. i doubt any real "mark" would have been so easily contented and not shown frightening bouts of anger to his muse, but then, i was never anyone's anna grigorievna so perhaps i shouldn't use my own experie ...more
Maria Parisi
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Marina
May 17, 2016 Marina rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I liked this better than her award winning short stories. There was this really familiar Russian style and feel to the whole book. Admittedly I liked the beginning most, and the Chekhovian style was harder to see in the agonizing romance, but I found the plot meaningful. Yeah, she's a somewhat pathetic character, and that's what her society/family set her up to achieve. It's a simple book about a culture cast in sharp relief over hypocritical American ideals and dreams, which is really fascinati ...more
Kate
Mar 12, 2010 Kate rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Those who like Russian Literature with a modern spin
Recommended to Kate by: A Librarian at the Chicago Public Library I frequent
This was my first introduction to Lara Vapnyar and I must admit that I enjoyed the ride. Her writing is very descriptive and I really could relate to the main character/narrator Tanya Fumer.

I enjoyed getting to know Tanya in Russia as a teenager when she reads Dostoevsky and fantasizes about being a muse like Polina. Then she leaves her native land and immigrates to New York City where she meets Mark, a writer, and thinks that her calling as a muse has finally come true. However, when Tanya acci
...more
Michelle
(3.5 stars) Tanya lives in Russia with her mother, an academic. She has recently graduated with a degree in history, and has managed to get a visa to emigrate to the U.S. There, she lives with her aunt and uncle, working in a menial job to pay her bills while she searches for a more meaningful position. She has always been enamored with Dostoyevski, and relates to his glamorous mistress, Polina rather than his devoted wife, Anna. When she meets an author at a book event and he invites her out, s ...more
Isa K.
Jul 21, 2012 Isa K. rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
So I got this book at a 'People who work in publishing' Christmas book swap party and set about reading it one chapter at a time in the bath. It's been way too hot for baths lately, so it took me forever to finish it.

The best thing about this book is the prose which manages to be lyrical at the right times and unassuming and easy to read at all other times. I liked the beginning-- with its almost morbid description of uninspiring people "unmuse-like" people-- quite a bit, but felt intertwining t
...more
Nascha
Aug 08, 2008 Nascha rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Nascha by: New York Times
I'm currently reading this book. Well, actually I had to put it down. I was utterly bored and I got as far as page 28.

I read about this writer in the NYT recently, about her third book, Broccoli and Other Tales of Food and Love. I was really anxious to read anything about this author. The review of her current book and interview made her writing sound lyrical and well, literary.

When I started the book, I found it utterly boring for about the first 35 pages. I just didn't get it. Not at first. S
...more
Meg - A Bookish Affair
Tanya is a Russian girl growing up during the Soviet era. She becomes very interested in the story of the author Feodor Dostoevsky, his wife and his mistress. She decides that her purpose in life is to be a muse to a writer.

She immigrates to the U.S. and meets Mark, a writer who is supposedly interested in Dostoevsky. At first, Tanya is happy to play muse to Mark until she realizes that she is not really a muse to him but a mere human comfort and thus the story progresses.

I really enjoyed Vapyn
...more
Megan
Jan 19, 2016 Megan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was a little silly. It showed an interesting immigrant perspective, although I do wonder how accurate a description it is. It gives you something to think about when you see a young woman with an old man, perhaps this is the story that lies behind the match up.
Derek Emerson
I'm a fan of Vapnyar's two collections of short stories, but her first novel left me looking for more -- or less. I can see a great short story here as much of the middle seems lost. What I like is her tie in with Polina, Dostoevsky's "muse," and the narrator herself. The connection back and forth says less about the writers than the muses, and they are both interesting people.

But the middle section could have been much less as it seems to wander from day to day. I was also disappointed by the e
...more
Bobbigalvin
Tanya is a teenage girl who wants to grow up to be a muse...and she does it! I am all about having goals! Whose muse would I be? I have contemplated that many, many times. HA!
Alsy
Oct 24, 2008 Alsy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found Vapnyar's other stort stories more succint and to the point. There were a few good chapters that I felt could have been whittled down a bit, but I also see how Vapnyar wanted a continuous flow and chain so that there is meaning behind every mundane object or act or thought. Overally, it's a great story. Who doesn't want to be a muse? But, most importantly, the Russian heroine doesn't end up miserable and living a life of doom and gloom. The ending is sweet and optimistic and I couldn't h ...more
Hilary
Jun 14, 2014 Hilary rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Unfinished
Joanie
Jun 17, 2012 Joanie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Something of a coming of age story. Tanya nurses an admiration of Dostoyevsky and of the women who inspired him. She hopes to join the ranks of Professional Muses.

I believed in the character and the way she invented herself as the ideal lover for an artist. I liked the details about life in Russia and life as an immigrant in the United States. I liked the way the novel ended (although I won't give that away). And I came away from it with a new determination to finally finish Crime and Punishmen
...more
Aline
May 11, 2013 Aline rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this book in a weekend. It took a while to get going with ninety plus pages of back story that kind of contradicted the blurb on the back. But, it was interesting history and the fault is really with the blurb and not the book. The author writes well. The story was an enjoyable and insightful expression about the difference between how we envision how life will be when we get what we want and the actual reality when we attain our dreams. I would recommend this book for a quick thoughtful ...more
Tom McDade
Dec 24, 2015 Tom McDade rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Tiff
Apr 28, 2016 Tiff rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I learned more about what a muse is. It is always interesting to read about how someone else views sexuality. She day dreamed about dead authors and realized later that they were not her knight in shining armor. Tanya is the main character and I suppose my favorite from this book. I didn't care for her older boyfriend and the family wasn't mentioned much. I did not like her mother. She was too pushy.
Ruth
Oct 24, 2007 Ruth rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Lara Vapnyar is one of my favorites among the regular short story writers in the New Yorker. Her book is original, generally well-written, and does follow in the vein of her New Yorker work. However, apparently, it's not very memorable. I forgot entirely that I had read it until I got it out from the library for a second time.
hannah
Dec 02, 2010 hannah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There are some moments of this book that are dull or not so great, but all in all, it was lovely. It scared me at the beginning to identify so much with the protagonist, and also to see how easily I myself might become either her or her mother. It was a fresh take on plot and character that I really appreciated while reading.
Isy
Sep 01, 2013 Isy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Pleasantly surprised. Well written and surprisingly easy to connect with. The main character is likable and her daydreams are... The story is very well woven together and I may be rating it so highly because of the fact I didn't expect to enjoy it but... I did.
Danielle
I think I may have had too high expectations about this book. The authors previous book got such gushing reviews. That being said, I really did enjoy this book- it's cleverly put together and everything matched up and comes full circle and all that.
Cassie
Jan 19, 2016 Cassie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: bohemian readers
Recommended to Cassie by: library shelves
This is the type of book that I think went over my head at the time of my reading it. I love the concept of this bohemian-muse lifestyle gone awry. If I come across this book again, I'll definitely pick it up again.
Shannon
Jul 20, 2007 Shannon rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: contemporary
I read the flap and the first few lines and was sold.

The author flips between scenes with her main protagonist and hypothetic scenes between Dostoevsky and his Mistress.

Entertaining, insightful, amusing.
Rimma
Sep 15, 2008 Rimma rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2008
As always, I enjoyed her characterization of Russian immigrants. I enjoyed the punch line at the end. However, I felt a bit lost about the time and context while reading it. I doubt I would read it again.
Ann
Aug 02, 2011 Ann rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A solid, enjoyable read. Something about it is a bit clunky though. The narrator never becomes strong, or seems to truly grow . . . But for some reason, I still enjoyed it.
Darlenebouchard
Jan 10, 2010 Darlenebouchard rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was an easy read and the authors humor throughout kept you turning the pages. It's a complicated tale, a good story, and a fun read.
Bonnie
Sep 08, 2007 Bonnie rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I learned what a muse is while reading this book and many new vocabulary words! Otherwise, I didn't care for the characters or the story very much.
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Lara Vapnyar emigrated from Russia to New York in 1994 and began publishing short stories in English in 2002. She lives on Staten Island and is pursuing a Ph.D. in comparative literature at CUNY Graduate Center.
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