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There Once Lived a Girl Who Seduced Her Sister's Husband, and He Hanged Himself: Love Stories

3.44  ·  Rating details ·  1,500 ratings  ·  270 reviews
Love stories, with a twist: the eagerly awaited follow-up to the great Russian writer's New York Times bestselling scary fairy tales.

By turns sly and sweet, burlesque and heartbreaking, these realist fables of women looking for love are the stories that Ludmilla Petrushevskaya—who has been compared to Chekhov, Tolstoy, Beckett, Poe, Angela Carter, and even Stephen King—is
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Paperback, 171 pages
Published January 29th 2013 by Penguin Books (first published January 1st 2011)
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Steven Godin
There once lived a guy who was seduced by the short-stories of Lyudmila Petrushevskaya.

Well, that's what he was hoping for anyway.

Being intrigued by one of her titles, he marched across town to try and grab a copy. As it turned out, he was only mildly impressed with her antics, but at least the book wasn't bad enough for him to end up suspended from the nearest wooden beam. Two things to note about some of the people in these stories, they are morbidly twisted and they are cramped in tight condi
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Antigone
Sep 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: essays-shorts
You know these women. You must.

A mother, an aunt, a family friend. A group of hens who go to lunch, play bridge, take tea. Women who dish, who gossip, who have news; a funny story, a juicy tidbit, a rumor, a suspicion, an aside. Women who come to chairs, finally, after a long day's labor; who collapse with a huff and take a minute as the bones re-settle and the mind clears; whose first steady breath spikes a tale, a twist of insight, a seasoning of observation. These graying biddies who chat, an
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karen
Feb 06, 2013 marked it as ceci-n-est-ce-pas-un-compte-rendu
seriously, penguin?? you deny me the netgalley??

DON'T YOU KNOW WHO I AM???

did you think i was jason?? because i am not!! this is a great injustice!!!!
Rossy
Nov 13, 2015 rated it did not like it
Shelves: dnf
DNF at 75%.
The title sounded so promising, but the stories were tedious, most of them, uninteresting, and the endings felt rushed or incomplete even for short stories.
Ammar
Sep 05, 2017 rated it liked it
This collection of love stories and broken hearts against various Russian and soviet backdrops is realistic ... full of tears and love along a prism of emotions that the author shoots up our arms
Ashley Olson
Feb 04, 2013 rated it it was ok
All of the stories go like this, in the same fashion as the title:

"It went like this:

There one was a girl who seduced her sister's husband, and he hanged himself."

"It went like this: There was an adult woman who lived with her grandmother and then her lover came over after work and they had sex on the couch with her grandmother in the same room, then the grandmother died and then the woman became pregnant."

"It went like this: There was a fat old woman who was fat because she was poor and she hat
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B.R. Sanders
NOTES ON DIVERSITY:
Petrushevskaya's stories are not diverse on the surface. It's not explicit, but I read most of the characters as white. The stories--love stories, the cover claims--appeared to be hetero in nature.

The bulk of these love stories are focused on women, and what is remarkable about these stories is the great breadth of Russian femininity* that Petrushevskaya tracks through her stories. The stories are pulled from the full spread of her writing career, and across them we have old h
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Kathleen
Feb 10, 2013 rated it really liked it
Reading Petrushevskaya is like being cornered by a really charismatic stranger and being told about lives you'd really rather not hear about. And perhaps those are the best stories, where you have to listen, mesmerised and a bit appalled. It leaves a lingering discomfort because that story was told to you and you're not quite sure why. It has to mean something.
I loved Petrushevskaya's collection There Once Lived a Woman Who Tried to Kill Her Neighbor's Baby so launched into these as soon as I h
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Airiz
Jan 03, 2016 rated it liked it
Short stories possess a kind of magic that novels sometimes do not have. The worlds in them seem smaller because of their length, but I came to realize that this is nothing but a hypercritical verdict: the worlds in them are in truth so much bigger, as there is a plethora of possibilities hanging at the ledge of every tale’s abrupt end. The readers often get to be the mind-pilots when they reach the said ledge, imagining what would happen past the borders. These tales are like tiny pieces of a u ...more
Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship
This is a really interesting, distinctive short story collection, focusing on domestic life in late Soviet/post-Soviet Russia; most of the stories take place in and around cramped Moscow apartments. Several generations often live together with too little space and too little money, parents often suspect that their adult children are scheming to take ownership of the precious apartment, and when love appears it's imperfect, marked by the characters' own deficiencies, and can't be relied upon to l ...more
J.A.
I've read my share of Russian literature, but nothing quite like the stories of Ludmilla Petrushevskaya. She writes of the harsh everyday existence melded with just enough absurdity to make it palatable. These are stories of neglected young girls, wives, mothers, and widows looking for love in humble and inhospitable circumstances. The love they uncover is not redemptive, but it is enough to sustain them. They are making the best of a bad situation, but this isn't an instance of taking lemons an ...more
Matt
Mar 31, 2013 rated it liked it
I feel a little bit like I might be underrating this book, since I liked it, but feel it's not as strong a collection as her "Scary Fairy Tales" book, which was devastatingly good. The idea of this collection is that these are love stories, though the introduction tries a different, and perhaps more accurate track, that these are really stories about motherhood, and the love that seems to get things done here is mother love.

The first stories felt underdeveloped to me, sketches that needed the de
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Daisy
Jan 04, 2013 rated it really liked it
I was reading this today while I gave blood. The nurse asked me what it was and I showed her the title. She asked if they were true stories. At first I said no. And then I changed my mind.

This time I did read the introduction before the book, then I read it again afterwards. Anna Summers puts it well:
The changes [Petrushevskaya] introduces in vocabulary, perspective, rhythm, and intonation sneak up on us, and before we know it we have implicitly forgiven bizarre, bewildering, and often vulgar be
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Mary
Feb 02, 2013 rated it did not like it
The title of this book begs reading, and having initially skipped the intro by the translator, I charged through the first few "love stories" with no sense of what to expect. These "love stories" are certainly not about love, not the dreamy American version anyway, and they're not really stories, either. More like dismal little anecdotes about impoverished Russians who will never escape their hopeless circumstances. It could be a cultural disconnect, but I didn't find any "delight in her humor." ...more
Sistermagpie
Jan 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing
It's so hard to describe a story by Ludmilla Petrushevskaya--I'd read one of her books before so I knew what to expect. I just love her. She writes about lives that one might call depressing, but there's just...something there. She just has, for me, this very clear pov that I'm not sure I understand, but I like. It's a bit like listening to an imaginative child tell a story where they say bizarre things but they clearly have poetic meaning? This is not to say the stories are childish or childlik ...more
Mel
Apr 25, 2016 marked it as not-for-me
I know I hate short stories so why do I still try to read them? This wasn't for me at all.
Tejas Janet
Nov 29, 2014 rated it really liked it
3.5 stars - The stories here are uneven with some overly short and sketchy, others longer and more fully developed, but they all share a common element of stark, pragmatic realism that deftly finds and exposes the fault lines inherent in real-life experiences of love and splits the fantasy wide open to reveal the inner vulnerability, neuroses, tenderness, bitterness, ugliness, and at times beauty. That the author accomplishes this with such economy of words is remarkable.

Aj Sterkel
Nov 29, 2016 rated it it was ok
This review is for the English translation of a Russian short story collection.

The title and synopsis sound so promising! The book wasn’t for me, though.

Ludmilla Petrushevskaya’s characters are looking for love in desperate places. They live in extreme poverty or in overcrowded communal apartments. They work in dead-end jobs or are mentally unbalanced. Many of them have given up hope. Their love affairs are bizarre, unrequited, awkward, dangerous. Despite the flashes of humor, most of the stori
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Hafizz Nasri
Feb 23, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ebook
Very much unromantic for a collection of love stories. Petrushevskaya ways of describing scenario always making me tense and speechless-- dark and slightly humorous, realist and hit the exact emotional tragic no one could imagine. Like open for a surprise plot, you'll be heartbroken, good but painful. This collection depicted random life-love-relationship a family could experience-- companionship, betrayal, lust, affairs, frustration, rebellious souls and that one person who always getting on yo ...more
Christine
I have to admit that I enjoyed the previous collection far more than this one. There is less magic realism in these stories, and a sense of wonder or charm seems to be missing. There are some very good ones such as “Milogram,” “Like Penelope,” “The Goddess Parka,” and “Father and Mother”. The last is rather good. The theme is relationships, in particular a weird type of battle of the sexes that also involves the government that tries to go after everyone. Perhaps this is a Russian theme; however ...more
lisa_emily
Aug 11, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2017-read
Thank god I was able to finish.
Melanie Page
Mar 29, 2019 rated it it was ok
Okay, Ludmilla Petrushevskaya’s titles certainly get your attention. I own this book as well as There Once Lived a Woman Who Tried to Kill Her Neighbor’s Baby: Scary Fairy Tales. Anna Summers, who translated and selected the stories to go in this collection, begins the book with an introduction. In it, she explains Russian housing: “concrete buildings made of one-, two-, and three-room apartments that often housed several generations of Russians. It is in these small, overcrowded, uniform, much- ...more
The Lit Bitch
Jan 14, 2013 rated it really liked it
4.5 stars.


Petrushevskaya stripped off the rose colored glasses and showed us what love really is sometimes and yet underneath all the grit and darkness there is beauty to be appreciated in each story. Petrushevskaya has shown us that love can find us all even in the darkest of times. Love isn’t just something that happens in fairy tales or in Nicholas Sparks novels…..love is messy.

I love books that go against the grain and challenge tradition and this book did just that. I loved that each of the
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Giulia
Feb 11, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really liked this collection of short stories but Ludmilla Petrushevskaya. I bumped into this book accidentally and, like most, was attracted to what the peculiar title promised. Unfortunately it doesn't quite deliver on that, as the title story is actually one of the shortest and the circumstances on how the girl seduces her sister's husband and then he hangs himself are not developed much. Nevertheless, the stories are well narrated and I enjoyed reading these bittersweet tales of lives in S ...more
Stefani
This book is incredibly difficult to review, mostly because I'm in that very meh, in-between category of not loving this book, but also not passionately hating it either—it inspires a sort of apathetic response that I attribute to a mid-winter depression that seems like most of the year in Russia. Blah.

From the start of this novel, you're gut-punched with a variety of grim and horrific domestic scenarios, each one worse than the one before—alcoholic and abusive husbands, scheming children, suic
...more
Erin Cataldi
Jul 28, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2020, own
Calling these short stories "love stories," might be a bit of a stretch but that does not diminish their greatness. Raw, cruel, ironic, and playful these short stories won't leave your brain. Written by one of Russia's most acclaimed living writers; these stories are bleak, realistic, relatable, and compelling. From illicit trysts, divorce, children born out of wedlock, poverty, alcoholism, to horrible living conditions- readers are pulled along through a world of bleak (yet realistic) tales of ...more
Jason McCracken
Jan 29, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dnf
DNF. 78%. Dull, uninteresting and mostly just the same story repeated over and over again... Russia awful, man bad, woman unable to escape, repeat.

The title was by far the best thing about this book.
David
Jun 17, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A lovely collection of dark-edged love stories- very few of which are happy.
chintan bhuva
Dec 28, 2017 rated it did not like it
What did I just read?
Shatterlings
Aug 19, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: transleighteen
These aren’t really love stories, they are bleak and bitter with sad characters, there is a dark humour in that no one can save themselves from their misery.
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Ludmilla Stefanovna Petrushevskaya (Russian: Людмила Стефановна Петрушевская) (born 26 May 1938) is a Russian writer, novelist and playwright.

Her works include the novels The Time Night (1992) and The Number One, both short-listed for the Russian Booker Prize, and Immortal Love, a collection of short stories and monologues. Since the late 1980s her plays, stories and novels have been published in
...more

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