This is a book composed of three threads, three stories about three different women, set in two different time periods and three places – Ukraine, LonThis is a book composed of three threads, three stories about three different women, set in two different time periods and three places – Ukraine, London and provincial France. One woman is a publisher (Katya Kendall), one the translator of diaries to be published (Ana Harding) and finally the author of the diaries (Zinaida Mikhailovna Lintvaryova). Over the summers of 1888 and 1889 the Chekhov family stayed at the dacha on the Lintvaryova estate. In her diaries Zinaida writes of those summers, her time spent with Anton Chekhov and his family. Zinaida has a brain tumor, is blind and is dying. That is what we are told. The story about the publication of the diaries is set in 2014 when Russia occupied Crimea, part of Ukraine. The Lintvaryova estate did/does exist. It is in Eastern Ukraine, outside the village Sumy. The author provides further information on her site: http://alison-anderson.com/the-summer... Click on the word “images” in the second paragraph to view the people and the estate. (I must thank my GR friend Angela for providing me with this link.) The three threads do tie together at the end, but each thread focuses on different themes. I found this distracting. Marriages in dissolution. Feminism. The role of a translator. Fiction versus non-fiction. Illness and death. The Russian occupation of Crimea in 2014. Too many themes to do any one properly.
There are accurate historical details about the Chekhovs, but there is a large dose of fiction in this novel. There is an epilogue that clarifies, but this is hardly necessary when you reach the end. There is a mystery to be solved. To classify this as historical fiction is stretching the definition of the genre. Furthermore, while the book is promoted as being about the author Anton Chekhov, it is much more about Zinaida. It is important you understand this if you choose to read the book. The book is about her, not so much about Chekhov. I recommend it more to those who love a mystery story.
I had a terribly difficult time with the narration of the audiobook. Usually I can distinguish between what comes through my ears and the author’s words. When I suspect the narration is influencing my view of the written book I repeat the words in my head. This directs my thoughts toward the words, not the sound. I recommend the written book if you are trying to pick the best format.
The audiobook has three narrators, one for each of the three main protagonists. Zinaida’s sections are read by Julia Emelin, Lucy Rayner narrates Katya Kendall's parts and finally Kirsten Holly Smith reads Ana Harding's. What caused me the most difficulty was Julia Emelin's narration, and she carries the largest part. To my ears she sounds fluent in Russian, which ought to infuse atmosphere, but instead it comes out as halting, unclear dialect that is hard to understand. The choppiness makes it difficult to appreciate Zinaida’s philosophical musings. Rarely do these parts flow smoothly. Emelin spits out Russian names so quickly that you have a hard time catching whom she is speaking of. Zinaida has two sisters and one brother. In the Chekhov family there are five siblings to Anton Chekhov. The Chekhovs, the Lintvaryovas and the numerous visitors to the dacha over the summers of 1888 and 1889 go by their surnames, patronymic names and nicknames. Who is being referred to becomes a jumble. In summary, Emelin's narration is jerky, difficult to comprehend and the names confusing.
Lucy Rainer narrates for the publishers, Russian emigre Katya Kendall and her English husband Peter. Perhaps the narration fits the role of the couple, but it is annoying to listen to. Rainer's impersonation of Peter is laughable. The best narration is that done by Kirsten Holly Smith. She is clear and pleasant to listen to. She does the translator, Ana Harding's parts.
Alison Anderson, the author of this book, is the translator of The Elegance of the Hedgehog, which I loved. I read that one in French, so untranslated. What is interesting is that the author has previously worked as a translator. What makes a translator good? Isn’t it being invisible? This is one of the themes of the book!
Choose the written book and don't expect to learn a lot about Anton Chekhov. ...more
On completion: The author of this book, Steven Lee Myers, was the New York Time's Moscow Bureau Chief until 2007. As a journalist stationed in MoscowOn completion: The author of this book, Steven Lee Myers, was the New York Time's Moscow Bureau Chief until 2007. As a journalist stationed in Moscow he has followed all that has happened in Russia in close detail. In this book he traces Putin's rise to power, his years in the presidency from 2000 as well as his collaboration with Dimitry Medvedev during 2008 through 2011. The book is detailed, well researched, extremely thorough and could not be more up-to-date! Even events of 2015 are included. The presentation is chronological.
The book provides a complete summary all that has been in the news concerning Russia over the last decades. What exactly? Examples follow: - Gorbachev's reign - Yeltsin's reign - the wars in Chechnya - missile defense discussions - the sinking of the submarine Kursk in the Barents Sea - the Moscow theater siege and hostage crisis (2002) - the suicide bombing of two domestic Russian aircraft in 2004 - Ivan Rybkin's kidnapping in 2004 when he accused the Putin administration of complicity in the 1999 bomb attacks in Moscow which led to the Second Chechen War - the Beslan school siege and hostage crisis (2004), - the expropriation/dismantling of the Yukos Oil Company in 2005 - the poisoning and death of Alexander Litvinenko (2006) - the Russian offensive in Georgia in 2008 and of course - the recent annexation of the Crimea (2014).
So you think the list is long? I have named but a few of the many, many incidents cited in this book, all of which have received widespread media coverage. So the book is a great summary of all that has been reported in the news, but the question is if it gives anything new. So many of the ‘crimes’ committed remain without conclusive proof. What exactly is fact and what hearsay? The result is you can believe whatever you want to believe. Russians have chosen to believe one version, and we with what we define as a freer press and more democratic way of life see the events differently. Read in one sweep, you are left thoroughly dismayed by what has occurred in Russia after the fall of the U.S.S.R. One is left frightened by where the world stands today.
Do I now understand Vladimir Putin? I certainly have not gotten into his head! That is impossible; no one is privy to his inner thoughts, and you certainly cannot rely on what he or what he allows the Russian media to say. His control over the media is tight; only recently has any dissent been able to be voiced via the net. Everything personal is covered up. Extremely little is known about his two daughters. Marilya was born 1985, is married to the Dutch Jorrit Faassen and has one child. Yekatarina was born in 1986. She remains unmarried. Vladimir married his wife Lyudmila in 1983. In 2013 the termination of their marriage was publicly announced. The decision was said to be mutual. It is the total lack of information that is most chilling. Do not expect much information about either Putin’s personal thoughts or family! It is his actions we can observe, and one can only make educated guesses at what has happened behind the scenes.
Why is it that Putin has such strong popular support? This was one of the questions I hoped would be answered by reading this book. I do understand the people’s support when he first came in to power - he spoke of eliminating corruption; he promised to get rid of the oligarchies. He reduced taxes. He increased wages. But now? 85% of the people support him. Corruption remains rampant and the standard of living for the large majority remains low. The masses scarcely care what happens to the stock market….. Putin’s almost complete control of the media, the total obliteration of all dissent, the lack of conclusive evidence proving his complicity may explain much, but I also believe one has to understand how Putin plays to the people’s strong sense of patriotism, their inherent love of their country. This comes to the point where it isolates them from rest of the world. While the book shows all this, the question itself is never directly answered head on.
The audiobook is well narrated by Rene Ruiz. Clearly and not too fast, but given the book’s detailed content and many, many foreign names it is very hard to follow in the audio format. I recommend reading the paper book instead.
Due to its extensive political, business and economic detail, the book cannot be seen as a light read, even in the paper format! Only occasionally does ironic humor lighten the load. Yes, I am glad I read the book, but it was a very hard read.
I have listened to about 25%:
I have to be upfront about this - the book puts me to sleep sometimes. So many people I don't recognize. Lines that leave me confused. An overload of facts for my puney brain. Yeah, I guess I am learning about what Putin has done to get where he is today....but do I know the man now? And how much will I remember? I don't think a non-fiction book has to be this dry.
I will continue........
Maybe if I complain it will improve????????! ...more
Biography of a destroyed Jewish town - Trochenbrod (1812-1942). What is remarkable about the town is that almost all its inhabitants were Jews. The toBiography of a destroyed Jewish town - Trochenbrod (1812-1942). What is remarkable about the town is that almost all its inhabitants were Jews. The town was located in what is today Western Ukraine. The author is the son of one who grew up there. It was totally wiped out in 1942 by the Nazis.
I recommend this book. That there existed such a town is amazing! What the book gives you is a record of its history, covering the 130 years of its existence. It explains how the policies, laws and decrees of Catherine the Great and Czars Alexander I and Nicholas I created the prerequisites for the village to come into being. What happened during the First World War, the inter-war period and its total annihilation by the Nazis is covered. How is this done? In two ways. The author summarizes what he has learned through research and through correspondence and interviews with Trochenbrod descendants. They live today all over the world, many in the US, Argentina, Brazil, Israel, Poland and the Ukraine. Much of what is summarized by the author is also repeated in the descendants’ personal firsthand accounts. You do get quite a bit of repetition, but I preferred the simple clear stories told by people who had lived there. Through their tales you get a real feel for the place. Small details make all the difference. One woman speaks of her eighth year birthday presents – a bobby pin, a ribbon, a rubber band – which to her were just wonderful gems! Some of the tales are horrific – experiences of partisans, starving, hiding in the forest. The post mistress was a gentile and her son played with the Jewish children of the village. It is they who were his friends. His Christmas tree, Jewish weddings, Sabbath rituals, school lessons – they are all here. These stories really add to the depth of the facts related. Some are told only in the appendix at the book’s end – don’t miss that! I preferred the descendants’ firsthand accounts over the author’s lines. You hear also what has happened to these people after leaving.
I listened to the audiobook narrated by Marc Cashman. The narration is clear but sometimes too fast. There are details and dates I had to glue into my head and I need time to absorb these facts! I had to rewind the audiobbok quite often.
I would recommend reading this book rather than listening to it, not just because the narration is at times too fast, but also because the paper book has pictures and a glossary of Yiddish terms. The Yiddish words are explained each time a new one is used, but the second and third time they are not…….and I sometimes forgot! I would have liked to look at the glossary. I assume the book has maps. It is hard to find the small towns and railroad lines described in the book on internet. It is hard to even guess at the spellings of some of the names.
The audiobook isn’t a waste though; the personal firsthand accounts are simple to follow. Maybe that is why I liked them so much? For me they made this a four star book rather than a three star book. Through these stories I got to meet blood and flesh people. I know the town through these people and what they had to tell me.
One more thing, Trochenbrod also goes by the names Sofievk or Zofiówka. ...more
I am listening to the audiobook narrated by Rula Lenska and her tone is perfect for the author who is 81 when she writes the book. It is based on a diI am listening to the audiobook narrated by Rula Lenska and her tone is perfect for the author who is 81 when she writes the book. It is based on a diary that the author wrote when she was in her teens,living hidden in a bunker, dug out underneath a house in Galicia, Poland, which is of course now in the Ukraine. Whose house was it, and who was hiding them? A German, and not any old German. He is in fact anti-semitic, a drunk and a womanizer. Rula Lenska's voice wonderfully fits the words and the age of the elderly author recounting her experiences. I definitely like the way it is written - I mean the choice of words. It is written with the help of a ghostwriter, Stephen Glantz. I am wondering who is the creator of the words used, of how things are expressed. I am drawn in immediately. I quite simply enjoy the lines and how the details are expressed. Together they have created a wonderful book.
On completion: This is a very, very good book/audiobook. When you encounter a book that has beautiful lines, lines that express so wisely philosophical insights and the truths of life you want to read those lines slowly. It is in these cases that an audiobook enhances one's experience. A good narrator reads the words slowly so you can suck on them; if you read the book your eyes may too quickly skim the text. If you can, I recommend that you listen to this book. You feel that the woman is telling of her personal experiences. More than 18 months hidden in a bunker! In a short epilogue Clara’s life after the war is also related.
So why read another holocaust book? That is what I was thinking! This story is so personal. You feel that you are in that bunker hiding with Clara, starving with Clara, trembling with Clara and suffering with her too. Clara's story is exceptional and it is well told with the help of Stephen Glantz. Read it because although most holocaust memoirs have an important story to convey, few are told so well!
This is a horror story, but there is love and compassion and kindness and bravery too. Yes, in the middle of such horror there are wonderful deeds of love. AND the bad guys, the Germans, the Nazis, the Ukrainians, will surprise you. They are not all bad. Conversely, some of the Jews, they are the ones that will make you cringe when their behavior is related. These are real people and they cannot be classified in groups or labeled as good or bad.
Maybe I would have liked a teeny bit of humor, and don't tell me that humor doesn't belong in a holocaust tale. There may not be much humor but there is profound kindness and goodness from those who one would generally not expect it from. This is a very, very good book.
What can I say? This is one of the best holocaust memoirs you will come across even if you have read a huge number. Don't miss this one just because you think you have read enough of the genre....more
Thius book disappointed me. I kept reading and reading hoping that I would be drawn in, hoping that I would come to care for the characters. I didn'tThius book disappointed me. I kept reading and reading hoping that I would be drawn in, hoping that I would come to care for the characters. I didn't leave any comments, because there wasn't much I felt I had to share with anyone. There were a few sentences that beautifully expressed thoguhts on love and pain and family. The message imparted is sweet and beautiful, but the way in which the story was told, just did not draw me in.
The primary problem with this book is that the reader is told by the first person narrator, a seventy year old woman, what has happened to her in her life. Living in the Ukraine during and after WW2 her family lived through the invasion by the Germans, then the Russians and then life under Stalin. We do not live the events with her. We are not shown what she felt and suffered Her life is summed up and told to us as she looks back upon it. Only at the end, which is quite lovely but at the same time predictable, are we the readers experiencing the events with her. Only then are we a part of her decision making choices. All previous was a summary told to us.
Ukranian myths, customs, traditions and mystical beliefs play a prominent role in the book. Through the text, I did learn about these beliefs and traditons, but they never sparkled or became magical.
So now you understand, I hope, why this book was a disappointment to me. ...more
This book contains very little biographical content about the author's war experiences. There are a few brief vignettes about his childhood and peopleThis book contains very little biographical content about the author's war experiences. There are a few brief vignettes about his childhood and people who have crossed his path as he matured toward adulthood. It is predominantly about his path toward becoming a writer. He states that his early childhood and war experiences have molded his character, rather than leaving specific memories. Thus his childhood years from seven to thirteen are not detailed, and they are not chronologically presented. There is nothing about his camp experiences, and little about the ghetto or solitary hiding in the Ukrainian forests. He was born in Czernowitz, Ukraine, in 1932. This is in the Carpathian Mountains on the border to Romania. The region is called Bukovina, situated next to Galicia.
What it does have, and what makes the book clearly worth reading, are Aharon Appelfeld's thoughts concerning his philosophy on who he has become as an adult, on language and writing and memory. He insists that while others have started afresh after their war experiences, stamping out past memories, he has built his adult self on remembering his past, the good and the bad. It is a part of him he cannot ignore. He does not wish to suppress or eradicate his past:
I made a survey and a reckoning: every person I knew who was saved during the war was saved solely by the grace of someone who, at the time of great danger, extended a hand to him. It was not God that we saw in the camps, but good people. The old Jewish statement that the world continues to exist only by the virtue of a few righteous people is as true today as it was back then....
Everything that had happened to me or that was about to happen to me was connected to the world from which I had sprung. The moment I realized this, I ceased being an orphan dragging his orphanhood behind him and became someone who was able to confront the world. (page 141)
Concerning writing and those who have helped him become the the acknowledged writer he has become, he speaks of a librarian friend:
He knew what bothered me in a text even before I could point the spot out to him. He always found the hidden flaw. It was strange: we never spoke about content. His belief, like mine, was that the choice of words, the composition of sentences - the narrative flow - are the heart and soul of a work; the rest comes by itself. (page 193)
My, those underlined words strike a chord with me. That is exactly how I feel. I have added the underlining.
I will be reading more by this author. I think I would have enjoyed this book more if I were better acquainted with his writings. I will have to fix that. ...more
"Tightrope is the story of 750 years of the extraordinary Backenroth family, from the end of the Middle-Ages until now. It is a true story, based on d"Tightrope is the story of 750 years of the extraordinary Backenroth family, from the end of the Middle-Ages until now. It is a true story, based on diaries, letters, documents, and oral testimony."
"The history of the Backenroth family is the history of the Jews."
The author of this book, Michael Karpin, was hired by Allan Kahane to write a book about his father, Israel Kahane, whom everyone called Ullo. This is that book. If you are going to write a book, why not write one that will sell so you can make some money out of it too? Ullo and his family and ancestors have to be interesting to a wider group of people if the book is to sell. So how can we sell this book which is a documentation of the Backenroth and Kahane families? We are told that you can follow what has happened to the Jews starting in the Middle Ages through to the 21st Century by studying this one family. Heck, it is true and it is an interesting family. It also remains true that the reason for the book's existence is because a son wants his family history documented. The reader feels this on every page.
Do you know how it is when you visit someone and they drag out their photo album and start showing you picture after picture, blabbing on and on: this is where they lived, and here he studied, and look here is her graduation picture and on and on and on. This is all more interesting to the person talking than the one listening. You are given too much. Every single incident must be related and seen and described. Mind you, you are only looking. You are given no real depth into how that person was feeling when that photo was taken. This book is like that. All the events of all the family members are related. Nothing is skipped. There are pages and pages of family trees. Heaven forbid if one family member should be slighted and not properly mentioned! The book is complete. What the family achieved is admirable. There are photos galore, an index, a bibliography and detailed notes. But what do you really know about what went on inside their heads? Not much! An interesting, excellently executed job, but the book remains rather boring. This reader never became engaged.
Maybe the family story will appeal to you more than me. So much is covered: persecution of the Jews during the years of the Black Death (1347-1350), Hasidic rabbis, discovery of oil in Galicia, the plight of the Galician Jews during the war, birth of Zionism, one of the family converted to Islam and became an advisor to the Saudi Arabian monarchy, other members of the family were deported to Siberia, others left for Brazil....... . I would like to give this book three stars, but if I am going to be honest, for me it was just OK ! This book I kept thinking I ought to like but don't!...more