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4.45  ·  Rating details ·  5,519 ratings  ·  537 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
Hardcover, 448 pages
Published March 7th 2019 by Oneworld Publications (first published February 2015)
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Average rating 4.45  · 
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 ·  5,519 ratings  ·  537 reviews

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Jun 20, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: in-russian, books2016
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 ...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,
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,
Claire McAlpine
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 ...more
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 ...more
Anca-Daniela Spataru
Nov 13, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 4-stars
3,5 stars
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
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 ...more
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.
Elvina Zafril
Jan 19, 2020 rated it really liked it
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
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
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.
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.
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,
Jan 13, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fmm, winter-2015
Really liked it, though it does have some flaws - some secondary characters and plot turns (they are hardly twists) are a bit too banal to the point of being caricatures, there isn't much of an idea below what is pretty much on the surface, and it does start REALLY good and doesn't quite manage to keep it up till the end. And yet it has some magic about it - the main character is very interesting as far as her transformation goes. And it is the kind of book that makes you feel all the feelings ...more
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 ...more
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.
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
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.
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!
My impressions about this book evolved over time. When I listened to it and shortly thereafter, I felt that the narration was very fresh, original, engaging. However, the more this feeling of "freshness" dissipated, the more I felt that the book is written in a bad, pretentious language ("ни слова в простоте"), the content is "naively vulgar," with a lot of inadequate romantization of very serious things.

The latter, I believe, is much more dangerous than it might be expected from such "female
Zohar -
Feb 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019
For more reviews and bookish posts please visit:

Zuleikha by Guzel Yakhina (translated by Lisa Hayden) is a novel about a Tartar widow who has been exiled to Siberia in the 1930s. This book was the winner of the Yasnaya Polyana Literary Award and the Russia Big Book literary prize, as well as being short listed for the Russian Booker Prize.

Zuleikha by Guzel Yakhina (translated by Lisa Hayden) is an unusual and powerful book. It is well written in beautiful narrative,
May 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book is the story of Zuleika, young wife of an independent farmer. In 1930, as part of the process of dekulakisation when more affluent peasants, characterised as class enemies, were sent to labour camps, their home is ransacked and her husband murdered. Zuleikha herself is sent off on an apparently endless train journey with hundreds of others who die, escape, or like her survive against the odds when finally they arrive in a previously unpopulated part of Siberia.

This is the story of that
Rozanna Lilley
Mar 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
Fast paced historical blockbuster that follows the trials and triumphs of Zuleikha, a woman with an indomitable will to survive. This is a Brechtian-style heroine if ever there was one. She endures terrible treatment at the hands of her husband and sadistic mother-in-law. Carted across Russia during the Soviet campaign of dekulakization, she feeds her growing baby son her own blood so that he will not starve in a bleak Siberian camp. While protecting her infant son from a bear, she accidentally ...more
Ionel Mihai
Jan 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Some have stated that the book didn't lived to their expectations, due to the slow pace in the second half. To me it felt very natural, after all that she endured, things were starting to settle down in her life. On the other hand her spirit behaves exactly the opposite: starting slow, almost asleep, and waking up more and more. Zuleihka opens her eyes.
Reading this book felt like drinking a very expensive beer: you begin by taking a big mouth, ending up with small sipps as you look at the almost
Chancellor Fangirl
Just stunningly beautiful. The story of a Tatar woman and the Russians with whom her life becomes enmeshed in Siberia in the 1930, the novel slowly draws the reader in until the level of investment really won't let you think about anything else. The writing and translation are positively topnotch. I borrowed this one from the library, but I have every intention of buying my own hardcopy so I can go back and take my time, savoring favorite passages like Zuleikha, Ignatov, the baby, and the bear.
Anca Spatariu
Jan 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved everything about this splendid book: how the characters were built and their beliefs, the different cultures, the struggles etc. Not only did I love to read it, I also loved to hate what was happening on each page.

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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
“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
“Но смерть ждала каждого – таилась в нем самом или ходила совсем рядом, кошкой ластилась к ногам, пылью ложилась на одежду, воздухом проникала в легкие. Смерть была вездесуща – хитрее, умнее и могущественнее глупой жизни, которая всегда проигрывала в схватке.” 0 likes
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