Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Russian Journal” as Want to Read:
Russian Journal
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Russian Journal

3.91  ·  Rating details ·  150 ratings  ·  18 reviews
At age twenty-five, Andrea Lee joined her husband, a Harvard doctoral candidate in Russian history, for his eight months’ study at Moscow State University and an additional two months in Leningrad. Published to enormous critical acclaim in 1981, Russian Journal is the award-winning author’s penetrating, vivid account of her everyday life as an expatriate in Soviet culture, ...more
Paperback, 256 pages
Published June 20th 2006 by Random House Trade Paperbacks (first published 1981)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Russian Journal, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Russian Journal

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.91  · 
Rating details
 ·  150 ratings  ·  18 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Russian Journal
Aug 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: feminism
I was inspired to buy this after reading an extract from it in this collection. Somehow Lee manages to convey the uncanniness of being elsewhere. In the introduction she mentions that she is a slow writer, and her simple yet highly evocative prose bears the marks of careful craft.

Written in 1979, this journal is a snapshot of late Soviet life in Moscow (and occasionally Leningrad) as filtered through the experience of a young African American woman. She moves through Soviet society as a student,
Oct 04, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Bought this at the Wards Corner bookstore back when I used to scour it every weekend for used books. I was fascinated with Russia at the time and actually paid for a brand new hardback book (I think I bought Nicholas and Alexandra around then as well). It was completely worth the money, too, as I reread it constantly. Over the years I wondered what happened to Lee and her husband (Googling suggests they've divorced and she's remarried) and all the people she met, especially in the post-Soviet er ...more
Nov 21, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
A fascinating time capsule. Lee writes with real intelligence and sensitivity about all aspects of her year in Communist Russia, covering politics, food, fashion, ideology and psychology with a fresh, light touch. She can outline a personality, describe a person's appearance and paint a picture of the time and place with a minimum of deft brushstrokes, bringing the land and its people to memorable life. She also shows admirable balance, showing not just the horrors of the situation in which Musc ...more
Jan 31, 2014 rated it really liked it
Author captured some timeless characteristics of the Russian people. At least between late 1970's and 1992. I was in Russian 1990-92 and the author evoked memories of my similar experiences. The book is easily read and captures the humanity of each character: full of life, strength and weakness. Note: There is a full chapter on the author's visit to triple-agent Victor Louis' "dacha" outside Peredelkino.
Urenna Sander
Apr 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
During 1978—1979, twenty-five-year olds, Andrea Lee, a grad student at Harvard in English and her husband, Tom, sponsored by a government exchange of scholars, was a Harvard doctorate candidate in Russian history. He had studied the language, spoke near-native Russian, and spent time in Russia prior to having his wife as his companion. They resided at Moscow University for 10 months, and then Leningrad State University for the remaining two.

Gifted with an ear for languages, Lee quickly picked up
Jennifer Culhane
Jan 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I had to read this novel 25 years ago for a college course. It is one of my favorite books still to this very day. The vivid detail Andrea Lee shared with her readers of what life was like on daily basis in the Soviet Union was enlightening and interesting. I would highly recommend it to anyone interested in the history and mystery surrounding the Soviet Union.
Oct 24, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: russia
A decent human interest story, the wife of an American studying for a year in Moscow chronicles her life and especially her contact with Soviets. She tries to keep away from politics, though of course, the impact of the Soviet political and economic system cannot be excluded from the book. While such a book may seem outdated today, given that the Soviet Union is nothing more than a reference in history books anymore, the fact that so many people try to replicate elements of the Soviet political/ ...more
Apr 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2016
I received this book from a good friend in the early 80s. I discovered it again on the shelf and decided to revisit it. Andrea Lee chose to represent the Russia she experienced in 1978-79 by beautiful portraits of Russian people. There are students, young party members and a band of hippies...twenty years behind their time. We witness the babushki, sweeping the streets and looking with disapproval on the young, denim clad Soviets. A wonderful book that has not lost it's charm in the more than 30 ...more
Lucian Dixon
Aug 25, 2010 rated it it was amazing
A look at the life of an American writer and her husband, a doctoral exchange student, in Moscow in 1978. It's not only extremely well-written but insightful and describes a wide range of people and situations.

Andrea Lee is also the author of the novel 'Sarah Phillips' (1984). Her most recent book, which received mixed reviews, is 'Lost Hearts in Italy'.

I'd highly recommend this book to anyone interested in Russia, even though it has changed in the 40 years since, and in the experience of livi
May 13, 2018 rated it did not like it
The writing is too complex and colourful for no apparent reason; the epithets and metaphors sound really forced. The gist of the author's experience in Russia is a mixture of pity and self-importance without a trace of respect for the people around her, whether she liked them or not. I wouldn't say that Russia is more or better than what is described in this book: the book just does not begin to describe it at all as it is entirely focused on the vanity of its author.
Jun 27, 2009 rated it it was ok
This book felt less like a journal and more like a recounting of events with lots of literary flourishes. As critical as Lee is of those Russians she encounters who are either affirmed party loyalists or shady KGB spies, her tales read like the same sort of shallow observations that must have filled KGB files. The images she paints and the characters she describes are colorful and interesting, but the utter lack of plot or point does them all a massive disservice.
Sep 10, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: travel-writing
This travel memoir dates back to the late 70s- early 80s, and gives an insightful in-depth glimpse into life in Russia at the end of the Cold War. The author writes short pieces on individuals she meets, painting colorful pictures of their lives. I enjoy the personal touch she gives... it makes me wish I could meet these people now and see how their lives have changed.

Oct 20, 2010 rated it liked it
I liked it. That's about it. This was very interesting to read while I live in a bordering country to Russia--also I plan to make a trip to Russia soon. She gave very good insight in a melodramatic way as to what it is like for an American to be in Russia.
Oct 07, 2008 added it
Russian Journal - Andrea Lee
Really good read. Soviet Unnion, before Glasnost. Has account of man that learned English by memorizing the dictionary. More review later.
Nov 29, 2009 rated it it was amazing
First read 12/2007.
Re-read 11/2009.

A great winter read...the vivid descriptions of all the seasons (even the dead of winter! in Russia!) are unforgettable
Dec 06, 2011 marked it as to-read
Recommended in the book, Tolstoy and the Purple Chair.
Sep 27, 2012 rated it really liked it
My favorite book on Russia!
May 21, 2013 rated it really liked it
Very well written as well as very interesting.
rated it liked it
Dec 12, 2009
rated it really liked it
Mar 17, 2013
rated it really liked it
Jun 28, 2019
rated it it was amazing
Aug 11, 2020
rated it liked it
Jan 26, 2008
Helga Boyd
rated it really liked it
Mar 09, 2015
rated it really liked it
Jan 07, 2020
rated it it was amazing
Mar 12, 2010
rated it really liked it
Apr 15, 2019
Whitney Teal
rated it really liked it
Aug 31, 2011
rated it it was amazing
May 30, 2010
Mrs. C.
rated it really liked it
Aug 14, 2011
« previous 1 3 4 5 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • The Hotel New Hampshire
  • Area 51: An Uncensored History of America's Top Secret Military Base
  • The Belly of Paris
  • The President's Hat
  • House of Salt and Sorrows
  • Enchantress, Sorceress, Madwoman: The True Story of Sarah Althea Hill: Adventuress of Old San Francisco
  • Prince Freya, Vol. 2
  • Arisa, Vol. 07 (Arisa, #7)
  • Love Me, Love Me Not, Vol. 1
  • Saint Young Men 01
  • The Golden Sheep, Vol. 1 (The Golden Sheep, #1)
  • 高嶺と花 1 (Takane to Hana #1)
  • A Man and His Cat, Vol. 1
  • SPY×FAMILY 1 (Spy x Family, #1)
  • Love in Focus, Vol. 1 (Love in Focus, #1)
  • Kakuriyo: Bed & Breakfast for Spirits, Vol. 1 (Kakuriyo: Bed & Breakfast for Spirits, #1)
  • Tokyo Alice Vol. 1
  • The Life-Changing Manga of Tidying Up: A Magical Story
See similar books…
Andrea Lee received her bachelor's and master's degrees from Harvard University.

Lee made her debut in 1981 with a journalistic reflection on life in the Soviet Union, Russian Journal. The book came after a 1978 exchange visit to Moscow State University with her husband when she was 25.

She is a former staff writer for The New Yorker, and her fiction and nonfiction writing has also appeared in The

News & Interviews

Are you spending this season bundling up against the chill or enjoying summery southern hemisphere vibes (in which case we are...
86 likes · 29 comments