Saturday, August 01, 2009

Mini-Review of "Russka - The Novel of Russia" by Edward Rutherford

I love the varied and "novel" ways that I sometimes discover worthwhile books and writers. In the case of "Russka," I was already familiar with the author, Edward Rutherford. His works, "London" and "Sarum" had captivated me, but I had not been aware that he had taken on the task of telling the history of Russia in the style pioneered a few generations ago by James Michener.

Last January, returning from a holiday visit with family in Romania, I stopped over in the UK for a couple of days. Whenever I am in England, I try to do at least one walking tour to increase my appreciation of the rich history of the realm. On this occasion, I opted for the day-long trip to Salisbury and Stonehenge. As our very knowledgeable guide would point out facts, I realized that I was already aware of many of them. She noticed that my questions presupposed some knowledge of the area.

She asked me: "Have you been here before?"

"No, but I read the novel 'Sarum,' and it is all coming back to me."

Later in our conversation, she learned of my frequent visits to Russia.

"Are you aware that Rutherford has also written a history of Russia in the same style as 'Sarum'? You must read 'Russka.'"

And I did. What a tour de force the author has wrought in this epic novel. The 750+ pages are all necessary to do justice to the vast sweep of the history and geography of the enigma that is Russia. The narrative chronicles nearly two millenia of the lives of those who have struggled to make a living on the land and to subdue nature and the many waves of invaders intent on mining Russia of it many riches.

I just noticed that Rutheford has a new book coming out in the fall about New York. I will be one of the first to purchase it.

In the meantime, enjoy "Russka"!


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