The Little Russian
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The Little Russian

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3.63 of 5 stars 3.63  ·  rating details  ·  538 ratings  ·  107 reviews
The Little Russian spotlights an exciting new voice in historical fiction, an assured debut that should appeal to readers of Away by Amy Bloom or Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier. The novel tells the story of Berta Alshonsky, who revels in childhood memories of her time spent with a wealthy family in Moscow -a life filled with salons, balls and all the trappings of the upp...more
ebook, 384 pages
Published January 1st 2012 by Counterpoint LLC
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Monty
This is a great debut novel, in a difficult genre. Historical fiction is challenging, and Susan Sherman has done a fine job.
"Little Russia" is a derogatory term for Ukraine. "Great Russia" was a term saved for the Muscovite-Russian speaking, Russian Orthodox Church-believing people who lived in the largest part of the Russian Empire (pre-1917) and largest Soviet Socialist Republic (after 1917). Ukraine, or "Little Russia" was viewed as a lesser, mongrolized state by the Russians, because it wa...more
Claudia
Once in awhile a bona fide literary treasure bursts upon the book scene. This book is one of those gems. It belongs on a shelf alongside other chronicles of humans caught between the Scylla and Charybdis of world events written by the likes of Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, and Boris Pasternak.

This book highlights the plight of Jews-the prevalent anti-Semitism, the Pograms, and the murder and displacement of them-through pre-revolutionary Russia from 1897, through WW 1, and the Revolution.

It is told thro...more
Melissa
I have fairly mixed feelings about this book. On the one hand it is an interesting historical novel about the pogroms in Russia in the early twentieth century. It is a story of survival in the face of grim death. On the other hand, the main character Berta is not particularly likable (she reminded me of the misplaced entitlement of Madame Bovary) and some of what could be the most interesting parts of the story were left out. For example, when Berta's son hides in the corner of an abandoned mark...more
Laurie
Mar 06, 2012 Laurie rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Mendy and Sharon
Shelves: ebooks, my-favorites
This was one of those books when i initially started reading it i wasn't sure if i was going to like it but it just kept getting better and better. Needless to say by the end i was in tears over it. It is about a young jewish girl who grows up being very spoiled and well off and the struggles she endures for her family in Russia when war breaks out and jews are no longer safe in their own country. It is a love story, a story of racism, endurance, tragedy, loss, perserverance against all odds and...more
Lauren Hopkins
Beautifully written war novel centered around a Jewish family in early 20th century Ukraine. Reads a little bit like "Gone with the Wind"; the author seems to want her work to look like the WWI version of that classic, and it works well. Parts dragged a bit, especially because it's heavy on the narrative and light on dialogue but overall it's interesting and devastating. Not among the best books I've read this year or on my list of favorites but certainly a very good read.
Hollyutah
I wanted to like this, but I found the protagonist too unlikeable. She did what she had to do to survive, but I don't want to have lunch with her.
Tenli
Read this while traveling in Russia, on a train from Moscow to St. Petersburg.
Lesley
The title of this book, The Little Russian, does not refer to a small person but to the heroine living in Little Russia, or as it is now called, Ukraine. I think I wanted to read this book because, if my father had not been brought to the US as an infant, I would be living there now.

The history of the Jews in eastern Europe is not new to me, but this book tells the story of one Jewish woman and how she and her family survive the horrendous events that happened in Ukraine at the turn of the last...more
Carol
This is the story of Berta Alshonsky. Berta's childhood memories were spent with a wealthy family in Moscow - a life filled with salons, balls, and all the trappings of the upper class. Later when she is no longer needed by that family, she is sent home to a very different life as a grocer's daughter in the Jewish town of Mosny. But when a mysterious and cultured wheat merchant walks into the grocery, Berta's life is forever altered. She falls in love, and marries him in Cherkast living the life...more
Nicole Bonia
The Little Russian by Susan Sherman is the story of the self-absorbed and dauntless Berta Alshonsky, a The Little Russian Readings: The Little Russian by Susan Sherman,The Death of Bees by Lisa ODonnell, The Art Forger by B.A. Shapiroyoung Ukrainian woman coming of age at the turn of the century in Moscow, Russia, and Ukraine- known as Little Russia. Chosen to live with wealthy relatives as a companion to their daughter, she is unceremoniously returned to her life as grocer’s daughter in Mosny u...more
Kay
Excellent writing by this new author! Wish she had included the definitions of the Jewish (Yiddish) terms used throughout the book. I was so wrapped up in the story I did not want to stop reading to look those terms up on the internet. I'm sure I missed a lot not knowing the meaning of these words. The story seemed incredibly sad to me. The way we ignore the suffering of those around us, not offering to help when we could. Also I found the heroine very selfish. Her children, as most children wit...more
Shari Dolinsky
As noted in Amazon "The Little Russian spotlights an exciting new voice in historical fiction, an assured debut that should appeal to readers of Away by Amy Bloom or Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier. The novel tells the story of Berta Alshonsky, who revels in childhood memories of her time spent with a wealthy family in Moscow –a life filled with salons, balls and all the trappings of the upper class — very different from her current life as a grocer’s daughter in the Jewish townlet of Mosny. So...more
Meg - A Bookish Affair
Since visiting Ukraine two summers ago (I went to visit a friend in the Peace Corps and on top of that, my ancestors were from there as well so my visit was really for two purposes), my affinity for reading about all things Ukrainian, Russian, and Soviet Union has really grown so I was excited to dig into this book merely because of the setting. What I found within the pages, was so much more than just a setting!

The setting itself was very intriguing. It really made me understand why my great,...more
Daphnar
The story of a frivolous young woman, accustomed to wealth, who must deal with it's loss after her husband suddenly leaves for America, WWI breaks out, and the Russian landscape is still filled with battles amongst the competing revolutionaries for political dominance.

I read this book during hurricane Sandy and was struck by how people (well poor people) at that time (of course) lived without electricity, reliable sources of heat in the winter, and often had no running water. It was also interes...more
Colleen
This book has it all--a good plot, interesting characters, excitement, violence, love. It was quite a thrilling read. Berta Lorkis has spent most of her teenage/young adult years living the glamorous life in Moscow. When her job as companion to her cousin is over, Berta must return to the primitive Jewish lifestyle of her parents. Devastated and embarrassed, she quickly alienates all the townspeople. One day, a man comes into her parents' store while Berta is working. He is rich and cultured and...more
Terrill
The dust jacket described this as "Fiddler on the Roof meets Gone with the Wind." It tells the story of a Jewish woman living in Russia in the early part of the 20th century. After growing up with a wealthy, cultured family in Moscow, she's sent back to her small village when she's 18. Her story is set against the background of WWI and the Russian Revolution. There are lots of terrible details about pogroms and what it was like to be Jewish in Russia at the time.
Milissa Straka
2.5 stars, I’d say. I don’t get all the love for this book. There were a lot of details left out that could have made the book so much more interesting (How did Samuil escape the soldiers in the market at the end of the story? Just what the HELL was Herschel doing in America for eight years while his poor wife and children struggled to live such a meager existence in Little Russia? Why could he not ever get word to them? Plus several more.) Also, the main character just wasn’t really all that li...more
Lauren
To be honest, I believe that there are two stories being told in this novel. The first story is about a woman named Berta and her family living in this incredibly sad time in Little Russia's history (Ukraine). The second story is what's going on in the country itself during the first 20 years of the 20th century. The reason I say there are two stories is purely because I enjoyed the second one, not so much the first.
I found the relationships between the characters choppy and even our main charac...more
Diane Nichols
Set in the Ukraine (Little Russia)during the early 20th century this debut novel left me with mixed feelings .It shows Susan Sherman's potential as a great writer of historical fiction but lacked the maturity of an experienced writer. In the first part of the novel I had very little empathy for the main character , Berta which clouded my experience of the book. As the story progressed I was surprised at her tenacity and resourcefulness and found myself sympathetic as she drowned in the unbearabl...more
Meghan Tracy
This book is absolutely charming. It enchanted me. I don’t know why, but I’ve always thought of Russian (even Little Russian) as this magical place filled with reds and greens and cold and a language that feels like velvet in my ears, but with people of stunning resolve and strength. It’s a little strange. After reading this, the magic didn’t wholly go away for me, in spite of the horrifying treatment of the Jews. The reason for my continuing enchantment is the main character Berta. The way she...more
Jan
This book helped me to understand the current situation in Ukraine. It's set in the early part of the last century, through WWI, the Revolution, and the years immediately preceding WWII. The protaganist is a young Jewish woman whose fortunes vary wildly throughout these years. Well written, hard to put down, even though some of it is predictably harsh.
Karen Sofarin
I did not love this book. Started out good but I did not find the characters well enough drawn out to keep me involved. I thought Hershel was the best charcter and really missed him in the second half of the book. Flat in general and way too pat and quick in the ending.
Neeta
Loved this one so much I finished it in two and a half days. It is historical fiction about the Jews in Russia from 1903 - 1921. The author is a good storyteller, providing just the right amount of detail without being long-winded. Her editor should be commended. This book does not bore you with politics like some historical fiction. You'll follow a Jewish family through pre-war pogroms and WWI, but do not let that turn you away. This is a story about love, resilience, survival, loss and the str...more
Maggie
The writing was beautiful, and the content was eye-opening and reminded me why I love historical fiction so much. As a sheltered and spoiled American teenager, I find it difficult to wrap my mind around all those senseless murders and attacks on women...I too would have struggled with my belief in God had I witnessed such horrific scenes. However, the plot itself wasn't spectacular, and I found myself getting rather bored half-way through, which is why I've decided to give it three stars instead...more
Sveta Wolkov
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Theresa
I had a really hard time getting into this book. I really preferred Hershel's point of view, which unfortunately, there wasn't a lot of.

There were also a lot of instances where the author spent way to much time on mundane details. Lots of descriptions of landscapes and apartment interiors and not enough action. At one point, a chapter ends during a tense moment with a character hiding from soldiers and the next chapter starts 4 days later without a word as to how or if it was resolved. I had to...more
Charlotte Sherman
The Little Russian spotlights an exciting new voice in historical fiction, The novel tells the story of Berta Alshonsky, who revels in childhood memories of her time spent with a wealthy family in Moscow –a life filled with salons, balls and all the trappings.

But then, follow the story in the tradition of the classical Russian novels of the best of the writers, Berta finds herself alonein the turmoil of the early 20th wars,the struggle to survive.

This is far more that only a historical novel, it...more
rivka
I found out today that the author is a cousin (second or third) of a cousin. My uncle (the linking relative) also says this book is very good. I'll have to check it out!
Nancy Spiller
This is an impressive debut novel. Sherman's masterful story telling skills maintain a high level of action while carrying the reader through a vivid, compelling and fully realized historic world of shtetl life in turn of the 20th Century Russia. Yes, Berta is not the most likable character, but utterly human as she faces real crises in her own tenacious way. Reading in this U.S. election year of the struggles of real individuals in Russia during its revolution and World War I reminds how easily...more
Hermien
This should have been just the kind of book I like, but it didn’t work for me. I couldn’t warm to Berta and kept going, hoping it would get better.
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Q&A with auth...: Fact and Fiction in The Little Russian 3 13 Feb 06, 2013 08:35AM  
Q&A with auth...: Researching Family History 3 9 Feb 02, 2013 11:03PM  
Q&A with auth...: The Word of The Little Russian 1 12 Jan 31, 2013 05:12PM  
Q&A with auth...: The Writing Process 1 9 Jan 31, 2013 05:10PM  
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Susan Sherman is a former Chairman of the Art Department of Whittier College, a small liberal arts university. She is also the co-creator of “That’s So Raven,” one of the most successful television shows for children in the history of the Disney Network.

Chosen for "Great New Reads in Fiction" by People Magazine, Susan Sherman's debut novel, The Little Russian, has garnered starred reviews in Book...more
More about Susan Sherman...
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“Berta, like so many Great Russians, thought of Kiev and the surrounding provinces as a Russian outpost: provincial, backward, but Russified to some extent. She had a respect for both the Polish and German influences there, but agreed with the authorities that the Ukrainian culture and language had little to offer. It was banned in the schools and in the government institutions and was thought to be the purlieu of reprobates, lazy slum dwellers, and rustics. Berta was born in Little Russia, a small fact that she never bothered to share with anyone of consequence. She was a Great Russian, as anyone could see by her fierce accomplishments, tasteful dress, and overall refinement.” 1 likes
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