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4.43  ·  Rating details ·  9,033 ratings  ·  832 reviews
The year is 1930. In a small Tartar village, a woman named Zuleikha watches as her husband is murdered by communists. Zuleikha herself is sent into exile, enduring a horrendous train journey to a remote spot on the Angara River in Siberia. Conditions in the camp are tough, and many of her group do not survive the first difficult winter.

As she gradually settles into a routi
Hardcover, 448 pages
Published March 7th 2019 by Oneworld Publications (first published February 2015)
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Popular Answered Questions
Commander Xell Wolf is his name, Leibe - surname, Carl - the name of his father, so Karlovich is the patronym.

Before October revolution, "name+patronym" was the pol…more
Wolf is his name, Leibe - surname, Carl - the name of his father, so Karlovich is the patronym.

Before October revolution, "name+patronym" was the polite form of address to a superior, well-respected or hardly known person.

After the revolution, official form of address changed to "surname", "status" or "status+surname".

That's why chekists call him Leibe, citizen Leibe or doctor Leibe. but old Petersburgers and, later, all Siberians call him Wolf Karlovich.(less)

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Average rating 4.43  · 
Rating details
 ·  9,033 ratings  ·  832 reviews

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Jun 20, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books2016, in-russian
Started off strong, but the second half didn't live up to expectations set (for me) by the first half. The opening is promising, with great writing and a lot of interesting Tatar color throughout. However, much of what follows feels too obvious, like a set piece about the 1930s, dekulakization, and collectivization. Perhaps even worse, after that, the narrative jumps down roads that do not feel very motivated by the previous characterization -- for example, while there is some foreshadowing of t ...more
Apr 17, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I recognised a real writer from the first page of this book, as I believe almost anyone would. Not graphomaniac, not Stalin's crimes exposer, but an AUTHOR who is directly drawing her inspirations from the best examples of classic Russian literature and talented enough to still find her own way.
Plot of the book revolves around life and fate of a young Tatar woman in the 30s and 40s. She starts as a cowed powerless wife in a muslim family and ends up in a labour camp in Siberia, raising child, su
Jan 26, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
While I was reading, i was at 5 stars, at 2 stars, at 3 stars and at 4 stars. Mean : 3,5. Somehow the end saved the book, even though "cheezy".
It started very powerful, i loved the first part. And it was good until the first winter in the colony ended. After that it became boring. There were more than 150 boring pages. I think the problem was that, as with so many other books, there was a plain presentation of facts, from the writer's point of view. We are introduced to a lot of characters, howe
Mar 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm glad I did open my eyes when I picked up this book from the bookshop couple of weeks ago. It deserves an immense bouquet of stars. It just feels like the book itself was part of myself even before reading it. The fact that it was enthusiastically acknowledged by Lyudmila Ulitkaia and Evgheni Vodolazkin [I simply love these two writers] triggered more intense focus and highlighted intent on starting the reading journey without any doubt on the quality of this experience. I could relate the he ...more
I really enjoyed this novel and I have been thinking about its unique perspective and character, that it is story about a woman who is sent to a labour camp, imagined by a young woman who was inspired to write it by the memories of her own grandmother and it has been translated from Russian into English by a woman.

One of my favourite books The Industry of Souls by Martin Booth was set in a Russian gulag, yet these are very different books. In his novel I was seduced by the writing, the mystery,
Jan 31, 2019 rated it really liked it
Zuleikha lives with her abusive husband, Murtaza, and her mother-in-law (whom she thinks of as the Vampire Hag) in Soviet Russia in 1930. Her life with them is a very hard one. When communist soldiers come to take over their farm, her husband is killed and she’s sent to Siberia. It takes them many difficult months on a train to get there, with many dying along the way. The other survivors include a painter, a mind sickened doctor and the man who killed her husband, Commander Ignatov. Together th ...more
Anca-Daniela Spataru
Nov 13, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 4-stars
3,5 stars
Metodi Markov
Review on English, followed by the Bulgarian one. Ревюто на английски е първо, следва това на български.

Unfortunately, this highly praised book turned out to be a complete propaganda rubbish, cleverly pushed as something significant, new and different.

Here we have a sterile, unrealistic characters and a weak story in which the events are only barely sketched only as not to offend the today’s Russian dictator, whose idol is the mass murderer Stalin. In the book he is presented as an uncle from a
Sep 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Twenty stars.

More if I could.

This is the best book I have read all year. It is a hard book, a cruel book, about a hard and cruel time and the people that were forced to live through it. It is about what it means to be a woman, a mother, a man, a servant of the state, an individual in the face of unspeakable cruelty, and still come out of the other side a human being. There are people you will love in this book, and people you will hate. There are people you will feel you've lived years and yea
Ieva Andriuskeviciene
May 04, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: audio-books
I will get a lot of hate for this but my dark soul was not touched by this book at all.
Found it too unrealistic too heroic and style was too primitive.
Characters not deep and very simple and uncomplicated . Like you knew what to expect from all of them.
Domestic life was interesting, Zuleikha herself was ok, but too simple.
I understand why it is so popular and why everyone liked it but not my cup of tea at all
Aug 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favourites
A piece of classic Russian literature brougt to 21st century by unique talent of its author. This is her debut, yet from the first paragraph I could recognise a writer.

I enjoyed the story, the characters, the language, the nature in the book. Grand, grand prose that distracted me from prosaic things in the whole week.

I will try to write more when I find time.
نیلوفر رحمانیان
Classic in every sense. Yet it was written in 21st century!
Dec 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: russian
I thought long about getting going with another 30's exile camp life novel, but in the end it was something entirely different that emerged. I was really in love with the flow of prose, and the amazing fresh way the author distills everything down to the human feelings. The prose is just so pure and unburdened, almost in the zen sense. As in that episode where Ignatov knows he is about to be demoted and he may be punished, or worse, and he just takes his brown jacket and brushes it down, and wri ...more
Elvina Zafril
Jan 19, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: times-reads
A thought provoking and interesting story. It started off strong with the beautiful words just like reading a classic story but the fact that it was written in this modern world.

The story takes place in Sorviet Russia in 1930 to 1946. It started with Zuleikha who lives at the farm with he abusive husband and her mother in law known as “Vampire Hag”. She lost her four daughters and had to bury them because she has a terrible condition living with abusive husband and the worst mother in law. It wa
This book is an amazing historical fiction book, Russian, and the author's debut novel. It's an award winning book as well as being nominated for several others. After reading it I can see why.

Zuleikha was taken in at the age of 15 by "Vampire Hag" as she is called by Zuleikha. She is Zuleika's mother-in-law, and she is just as nasty as Zuleikha's husband, Murtaza, if not worse. It's 1930's in Soviet Russia. Zuleikha goes through terrible conditions, she lost four daughters and had to bury them.
Rick Slane
Highly recommended, wonderfully translated tale of Stalin's Soviet Union from the late 1920's until 1946. (view spoiler) ...more
Feb 03, 2020 rated it really liked it
This award winning Russian historical fiction may prove to be disappointing for those worried about historical accuracy or believability, but it is an entertaining adventure tale of a woman transported during dekulakization.
Apr 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: russia, c21st
It's always worthwhile keeping an eye on the Asian Review of Books, and it is thanks to them that I discovered Zuleikha, a big, bold, beautiful historical novel from Russian author Guzel Yakhina. The book was the winner of the Big Book literary prize and the Yasnaya Polyana Literary Award, and it's starting to get attention in the English speaking world now that there is a superb translation by Lisa C Hayden (who blogs about classic and contemporary Russian fiction here).

Beginning in the Stalini
Aug 26, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historical
It took me a long time to finish this book, longer than I had estimated at the beginning. "Zuleiha..." starts off strong and my initial feeling was one of awe. The first chapters had me devouring the pages one after another. I was excited to finally read about this conflicted woman, one so very different that the usual heroines we get in contemporary literature. Zuleiha's interior monologue was the kind of literature I so desperately wanted.

However, as the story progresses, we get this mixture,
Dec 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It took me only one day to read the entire book. Yes, it was that interesting.
At the same time it was so frightening that I couldn't sleep after finishing the story. It's really horrible how little value human life had at the beginning of USSR. They just took away all the property from those who had something (and I know that it were the most hard working people who managed to survive the war, revolutions and hunger) and then they just didn't know exactly what to do with all those unfortunates.
Jan 10, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A 4,5 actually as i couldn't wholeheartedly give it a 5! ...more
Mar 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
I started reading this book, thinking the story will be about Zuleiha; It's also about many other supporting characters. I hoped the account would be presented from her point of view; It's presented from the writer's (sometimes plain) point of view. So I am disappointed because it could've been a great book, but for me, something was missing. I loved the first part and assumed it would pave the way for a powerful transformation journey, but I needed more of Zuleiha to enjoy reading it. I'd give ...more
James Spencer
May 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
I loved this. The story of a group of people in Stalinist USSR who are sent to internal exile in Siberia where they build themselves a new community in the form of a labor camp. The central figure is Zuleikha, a Muslim Tatar who is removed from her home after her husband is killed for being a so-called kulak (i.e. a peasant small landholder) but the book is full of memorable figures. As hard as their lives are, I enjoyed very page.
Petronela Nădejde
Simply Amazing. Just when you thought nothing else could happen she surprises you again. Zuleiha evolved from the shy, obedient wife into a strong woman capable of taking care of herself and her child in the most unfortunate circumstances . During her journey she overcomes her shyness, she discovers love - one that will consume her, and the joy of being a mother. All she believed in, all she thought as to be good or wrong changes as she, forced by communists, makes her way out of the small villa ...more
Bianca Manea
Feb 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
5/5: i have probably ‘met’ some of my favorite literary characters, i got to understand the roughness but also the beauty of the Siberian taiga, i have come to learn just how far the human limits can go but also how sticking together can save lives, i met true love, i got to know some Tatar traditions and legends - this book has it all and is beautifully written
Sep 03, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
While reading this book, I sometimes saw my grandmother in the beautiful main character. All the more reason to love it.
Iulia Nicolaie
Jun 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Forbidden love, overwhelming motherhood, survival at all costs. One of the best books I’ve read this year. You can almost feel the shivers down your spine and the pain in your chest. Wonderful!
Lucacel Ovidiu
Apr 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
First of all, I will start with what is missing from this book, as it is only one thing, which is purely subjective. I would have loved to see what the author thinks about the main subjects (religion, communism, morality) as well as some parallels with other moments of history, but she chooses to concentrate fully on the story itself. Moving on to the things that made me fall for this book, I must start with the incredible details that are found in each and every place, from the surroundings, th ...more
Miina Saarna
Jan 12, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: reading2020
A rather gripping story of surviving in Siberia. It was well written, it’s just that I’ve read quite a number of books about Gulags and Russian labor camps and so I felt that this story was all in all a bit too predictable.
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Play Book Tag: Zuleikha - Guzel Yakhina - 4 Stars 1 10 Jul 03, 2020 01:14PM  

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Guzel Yakhina is a Russian author and screenwriter. She is a winner of the Big Book literary prize and the Yasnaya Polyana Literary Award.
Guzel Shamilevna Yakhina was born in Kazan. Her mother is a doctor, while her father is an engineer. She spoke Tatar at home and learned Russian only after she started going to daycare.

She studied at the Department of Foreign Languages in the Tatar State Univers

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“Inima e sălașul sentimentelor, nu al rațiunii.” 1 likes
“Игнатов не понимал, как можно любить женщину. Любить можно великие вещи: революцию, партию, свою страну. А женщину? Да как вообще можно одним и тем же словом выражать свое отношение к таким разным величинам – словно класть на две чаши весов какую-то бабу и Революцию? Глупость какая-то получается. Даже и Настасья – манкая, звонкая, но ведь все одно – баба. Побыть с ней ночь, две, от силы полгода, потешить свое мужское – и все, довольно. Какая уж это любовь. Так, чувства, костер эмоций. Горит – приятно, перегорит – сдунешь пепел и дальше живешь. Поэтому Игнатов не употреблял в речи слово любить – не осквернял.” 1 likes
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