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The Museum of Abandoned Secrets

4.08  ·  Rating details ·  551 ratings  ·  70 reviews
Spanning sixty tumultuous years of Ukrainian history, this multigenerational saga weaves a dramatic and intricate web of love, sex, friendship, and death. At its center: three women linked by the abandoned secrets of the past—secrets that refuse to remain hidden.

While researching a story, journalist Daryna unearths a worn photograph of Olena Dovgan, a member of the Ukraini
Paperback, 727 pages
Published October 9th 2012 by Amazon Crossing (first published 2009)
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Average rating 4.08  · 
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 ·  551 ratings  ·  70 reviews

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Viv JM
I lost count of the number of times I contemplated giving up on this book - even at 500 pages through I was tempted to call it a day! But it seemed like always, just as I was about to give up, there would be an astonishing passage that drew me back in and I do feel a sense of great accomplishment at finally having made it through the 700+ pages :-).

The Museum of Abandoned Secrets is not easy to summarise - the sprawling plot takes in a modern day journalist, the death of her artist friend, the
Mar 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing
People often forget the evil they've done unto others, but retain forever the antipathy toward those they've wronged - reasons for this are found and fit into the puzzle later, retroactively.

Don't ask me to write a fair review of this. I can't. Yes, that's a standard cop-out and all, but in this case it also happens to be true; partly because I'm just bowled over by it, but also because it's the kind of novel (I could say Joyce, Morrison, Cartarescu, etc) that's so steeped in language, history a
Mar 16, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: ukraine
With all that's going on in Ukraine right now I wanted to read something that would help me understand the conflict. This novel was on a list created for that purpose. It was really long (760 p.), really wonderful, and one I can’t get out of my head. The plot revolves around 3 women: a contemporary tv journalist, Daryna, who becomes obsessed with finding out the story of a striking woman in a photo of 5 partisans taken during WWII; Vlada, Daryna’s artist friend who dies suspiciously in a car ac ...more
Roman Clodia
Jun 25, 2016 rated it really liked it
The publisher's blurb makes this sound like a past/present romantic family saga of the kind written by Kate Morton, Rachel Hore et al. which is unfortunate as this is a committed and ambitious literary work which seems to take its influences more from writers like James Joyce and Proust. Zabuzhko has a PhD in philosophy and has taught at Penn State and Harvard - and she draws on both feminist and postcolonial theory in this book which is an intelligent engagement with Ukrainian history and ident ...more
Katia N
Nov 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Very complex, long and slow novel. But definitely a rewarding experience if you would dive into it. It is written in my favourite narrative way - the the stream of consciousness, mainly by the main heroin and her boyfriend. But besides it has got a plot as well. The narrative takes place in two time periods: WW II and its aftermath in Western Ukraine, and before the Orange revolution in Kiev. Two lines are constantly intervene which creates the third dimension of the novel.

It feels that the nove
Nov 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Read this book when you are exhausted of the banal selections recommended enthusiastically by Amazon. Read this book when you can't stand another melodramatic plot, its one-dimensional characters twisting in the wind, served up with a giant side of insincerity and condescension. Read this book when you just want to cut through the noise and immerse yourself in the refreshing world of Slavic eloquence and understanding of art and life.

The Museum of Abandoned Secrets is sophisticated, complex, an
Lynn Kanter
Jun 07, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This sprawling novel takes place in modern-day Ukraine (2003) and in the Ukraine of 60 years ago. The plot hinges on the friendship between two women in modern Ukraine: a journalist who hosts a popular TV interview program, and a respected artist who is killed in a freak car accident. Their story develops with a parallel story about a woman freedom fighter during WWII, about whom the journalist is trying to make a documentary. The novel is a bit challenging to read – the plot swirls around in ti ...more
Sep 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: russia
This is one of the most beautiful, lyrical and thought provoking books I have ever read. For me it was an "epic" novel. The setting is Ukraine from the 30's to the 90's, including all the war, political repression, upheaval and change that occurred during those times. Of course there are a couple of wonderful love stories and families that prove to be move connected than originally one might think. There are past topics such as archives retained or removed by the KGB. There are current topics su ...more
Clarissa Simmens
Aug 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Wow! Shades of James Joyce's "Ulysses." My paternal grandmother was from the Ukraine so I already felt a connection with the space part of the continuum (and did it continue!). Devastatingly sad, hysterically funny, almost always lyrically written, the reader will need to devote lots of time and attention while reading. Definitely an immersive experience... ...more
Dec 25, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: history, ukraine
The Museum of Abandoned Secrets is a weighty novel that spans through several generations in the history of Ukraine, from the 1940s to the early 2000s. A journalist, Daryna, is trying to uncover the secrets around the life and death of 2 women who are important to her for different reasons: one is her best friend and a famous artist, the second is a mysterious woman thought to have died fighting for the Ukrainian Insurgent Army, whose picture she discovered by chance.

These premises are very cap
Aug 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing
The Museum of Abandoned Secrets by Oksana Zabuzhko is an expertly written book which I cannot praise highly enough. Zabuzhko has created quite a lengthy tome, yet I cannot fathom what could be removed without losing the many threads that weaves together this exquisite Ukrainian book. Having spent time in the former Soviet controlled Ukraine, I was captivated from the very beginning to the last page and found myself longing to return. I highly recommend The Museum of Abandoned Secrets and hope th ...more
My goodness - this was pretty tough going but absolutely worth the six weeks it took me to battle through it. So many subtleties and intricacies woven together in a beautiful way. I can see myself coming back to this in years to come as I'm sure there's an awful lot that I missed! ...more
Julie A
Nov 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Honestly, this is incredible. It's passionate. It's unique. It's chock full of information. It's prescient. It's savvy and shrewd. It's stylized, but not affected. This is a book that knows its weight and isn't pretentious about it. This is truly a work that exceeds every possible expectation. It is a masterclass.

I think this book can best be described as a lament - one that is almost akin to a funerary wail. Zabuzhko sees what has happened to her country, and what is continuing to happen - a s
Jun 29, 2014 rated it liked it
I read reviews of Oksana Zabuzhko's modern stab at a Ukrainian national epic when it was published in German in 2010 and thought it would be interesting to read but I'd rather wait til it came out in English in 2012. I think it might be eBook only in the US, but that was fine. I'm also happy I got around to reading it when I did, with Ukraine's struggle to break free of Russian domination again in the news.

Zabuzhko uses three narrators. The main character, Daryna, is a successful and admired TV
Jul 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I finished this last year and am astonished I never wrote a review---likely I was merely too limp with awe to take action. I started the book the week Russia invaded Ukraine (again). I wanted to know more about Ukraine, particularly from a woman's P.O.V. In its pages I found stunning, poetic, evocative language (some light as lace, some as harrowing as a prowling animal). This book is the outcome of translation and that translator (Nina Shevchuk-Murray) deserves awards IMHO. (BTW I've read a rev ...more
Dec 16, 2012 rated it liked it
This book is quite interesting, especially for people (like me) who already have an interest in Eastern Europe. You learn a lot about Ukrainian history, especially of the World War II, postwar, Communist, and post-Communist eras. It also has a certain puzzle aspect that is quite appealing. I found myself, for example, waking up one morning remembering something I'd read earlier in the book and realizing "Oh yes, that's who the father of Boozerov (one of the characters) must be!" On the other han ...more
I tried reading this. I generally like foreign literature translated to English, I've read a lot of it. I had high hopes for this book, the subject or blurb had me looking forward to it with interest. I couldn't finish it, I even put it aside and tried to come back to it.
It's not that it's badly written, I think it's well written, it just appears to be stream of consciousness in another language/culture that is different from mine and I got lost and confused. It seemed the person would ponder de
Matthew Gaughan
Mar 08, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: ebook, ukraine
Gave up halfway through this book. It promised a lot - drawing together different periods of Ukrainian history to explore the state of contemporary Ukraine - but was little more than a series of interior monologues by two static characters. The translation at times is good but is often weird, with outmoded American colloquialisms such as "Aw, shucks," which I'm not sure anyone ever really said in 1950s US let alone in twenty-first century Ukraine. ...more
Review of The Museum of Abandoned Secrets by Oksana Zabuzhko, translated by Nina Shevchuk-Murray

The past is remembered by photos but what of lays behind the people in the photo?

The novel is about a TV journalist Daryna Goshchysnka discovers a photo of some members of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army, active during world war 2 into the late 1940s as the USSR strove to regain control of areas previously occupied by the Nazis. This sets Daryna and herpartner, Adrian to try to find out the history behin
Waheed Rabbani
Jan 06, 2014 rated it really liked it
This novel, written in the style of Joyce or Proust, is essentially based on Faulkner’s theme: “The past is never dead. It is not even past.” While the opening is set in turbulent contemporary (2003) Ukraine, the twin-frame plot covers nearly 60 years of Ukraine’s recent chaotic history, from the Stalin era through WWII, the guerilla warfare leading to independence, and the 2004 Orange Revolution.

The story revolves around the mysterious lives of three women: Daryna, a present-day TV journalist;
Gina Arnone
May 14, 2013 rated it really liked it
I wasn't sure that I was getting into the story at first, but the writing was so very beautiful to me. I have been trying to think of the best description, and my guess is lyrical. I would compare it to listening to music or drifting on a river, almost lulling in a way. Not boring, but stunningly beautiful.
When I got into the story it revealed its own charm. I didn't want to put the book down as the story and its mystery unraveled.
The historical basis of the book, was very well done. It brought
May 19, 2013 rated it really liked it
complicated and intriguing book, sharing the artistic soul. not for everyone due to the length. but a definite insight into the Ukrainian mindset from WWII to present. now I am curious, the children's ditty in the book which my Ukrainian -American father would say, " fishy, fishy, in the brook, Daddy catch it in on the hook, Mommy fry it in the pan, baby eat it if you can" from the Ukraine?
The novel is written in the stream of consciousness format. One character exists in 2003 and the other in 1946. The story takes place in Ukraine and covers Ukrainian history. There are some really well written passages and tidbits about Ukranian history I found interesting but I really wasn't ever engaged with the book or enjoyed reading it very much. ...more
Mar 08, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Some of the best writing I've read in years. I highlighted so many sentences. Slow moving but fascinating plot, and I didn't care that it was slow because it was so wonderfully written. Beautiful, sad, yet uplifting book. ...more
John Dawson
Jun 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Outstanding novel of a hidden history

Deep and thoughtful insight in the dark past and difficult future of a new independent nation. The view point of ordinary little people caught up in the maelstrom of history.
Feb 22, 2013 rated it it was amazing
A great book. And definitely worth your time.
May 24, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Must read for every Ukrainian. And Russian. So that we would remember. And understand.
Mar 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
A very powerful novel that says more through fiction than many nonfiction works.
Aug 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
The burying of icons, the careless sell-offs of art and antiques, the destruction of records, highways built over mass graves, the falsification of death certificates, memoirs that spent decades "underground," all have conspired to suppress the Ukrainian people's memories and experiences of war, persecution, invasion and famine. In her epic novel, The Museum of Abandoned Secrets, Oksana Zabuzhko illuminates the history of modern Ukraine through 3 main women characters and the men who love them. ...more
Aug 10, 2019 rated it liked it
There paragraphs in this book that is so stellar and so fantastic that all the boredom the same book induced, was kicked to the curb. A look into Ukrainian history through the eyes of two protagonists separated by time and eras where the current politics was taking a drastic turn in international arena. The presence of the two women is strong every time they are on page but the fire sizzles out when the author ventures slightly out of this comforting boundary. The story expands and contracts wit ...more
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Oksana Zabuzhko is a contemporary Ukrainian writer, poet and essayist.

Born in Lutsk, Ukraine, Zabuzhko studied philosophy at the Kiev University, where she also obtained her doctorate in aesthetics in 1987. In 1992 she taught at Penn State University as a visiting writer. Zabuzhko won a Fulbright scholarship in 1994 and taught Ukrainian literature at Harvard and University of Pittsburgh. Currentl

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