Jan's Reviews > A Mountain of Crumbs

A Mountain of Crumbs by Elena Gorokhova
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Mar 31, 2011

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bookshelves: non-fiction
Read in March, 2011

Gorokhova's memoir of growing up in Soviet Russia.

Initially, I really liked this book. I particularly enjoyed Gorokhova's stories about her mother's younger days and about her own childhood in Leningrad. As the author plunged on into her adulthood, however, I started to grow bored, and eventually found myself skimming a bit toward the end.

I'm still a bit confused as to why Gorokhova was so desperate to leave the USSR. Because she couldn't buy pantyhose and mayonnaise? That's kind of how it came across. While the look into her childhood was fascinating, she actually made it sound rather nice. It never seemed like she was in mortal fear of her life. Yes, she grew up rather modestly, but good grief, her family had a summer home! I know people who grew up in "free" society who were raised with far less. And so the older she got, the harder time I had connecting with her. Why did she want to leave so badly that she married a man she barely knew, a man who clearly told her before they got married that he wanted to continue seeing other women? It was never fully explained and that bothered me. (That marriage, perhaps unsurprisingly, did not work out.)

However, there was enough throughout most of the book to like that the perplexing end of her story didn't entirely ruin my enjoyment of it as a whole.
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message 1: by Inna (new)

Inna It was not uncommon for many Soviet families to own a cottage where they spent weekends or summers. This by no means was a sign of any luxury. In fact, much land and homes were seized from families with the Soviet regime, so the "summer homes" were more of a necessity where people kept gardens which helped them survive. I myself have fond memories of growing up in 1980's Ukraine. No, I was not in mortal fear of my life, but that doesn't mean my family was not justified in wanting to leave so desperately. However, try crossing the line where you wanted to express yourself creatively or religiously (by that I mean attending a church that wasn't registered with the government), and your life could very much be in danger. As far as not being able to buy pantyhose and mayonnaise (maybe sounds a bit shallow at first), does this not shed light at what state the USSR was? It was also toilet paper, jeans, common baking supplies, sunglasses, years waiting in line for a decent apartment, nearly impossible to visit relatives across borders... Also, need I point out to you that it's not that these things were always nonexistent in the state. But they could be much more easily attainable with the right bribes in the "right" places. Gorokhova's marriage may be disturbing, but it was probably THE only way for her to leave and have opportunities that Soviet Russia could never offer. Even in better times, many are still desperate to leave today. Perhaps Gorokhova could have gone on to some further explanation of the conditions, but I hope this clears up some confusion for you.

Maggie She definitely paints a more detailed picture of the "summer home" and life in the Soviet Union in her next book, Russian Tattoo.

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