So… I’m low-key obsessed with Russia. I know the country’s politics are problematic (to say the least). But I’ve been reading Russian Literature since I was 14. I want to see all the places that I’ve spent years reading about.
Two stories from my favorite genres: YA & Historical Fiction and of course, a Classic
Among the Red Stars by Gwen C. Katz
Valka is a young girl who dreams of becomimg a pilot, just like her hero Marina Raskova. As a teenager, she and her cousin Iskra manage to get their pilots license. When war breaks out, they try to enlist. There are obstacles, of course. They’re women, and best to be taking over the jobs the men have left behind. But Raskova has decided to create a new women’s regiment, and Valka and her cousin quickly leave the safety of their home and head for the war.
The story is told mainly through Valka’s point of view. But there are letters that she and her friend/sweetheart Pasha (who is drafted and sent to the front) send back and forth. So amidst the violence and destruction of the war, we get a little reprieve from the chaos as we see the two friends comfort one another. It was obvious where their story was heading, but it was bittersweet to see them confront their feelings for one another. And getting a glimpse of how the war affects them in different ways especially since Pasha gets stuck in German-occupied territory…
Through Pasha’s letters, the reader gets an account of life at the front. It’s raw brutality. While through Valka, we get a different view of the war. She lives in a barracks and every night has to fly her plane into enemy lines. Two different perspectives, from two completely different people, in the same war.
I knew absolutely nothing about these incredible women. And some of the feats described in the book were actually based on real life events. Amazing! Quite an empowering novel.
I do have to say, that the book read a little young for me. It’s YA yet I’m not sure why, but it read more like a middle grade novel. At least to me it did. Maybe the writing was too simple? Regardless, I really enjoyed it and loved learning a little about the infamous Night Witches.
The Double by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Whenever someone asks me who my favorite author is, I answer Dostoyevsky. No hesitation, whatsoever. This man was brilliant. I make it a habit to read at least one of his works every year (something I also do with Jane Austen).
The Double is a novella. It’s one of Dostoyevsky’s earlier works so it’s not on the same calibre as his later writing. But it is still really good. This is my first time reading it, and I was completely drawn in.
The story revolves around the idea of a doppelgänger. Golyadkin wakes up one day and has various strange encounters. As he walks home, he runs into a man. His double. He is so bewildered and frightened. Then his double, also named Golyadkin, is hired at his job. What is going, he wonders. Are his colleagues messing around with him? Is his servant, Petrushka, setting him up? Or is Golyadkin imagining it all?
And that is where the beauty of the novella lies. You’re so in tune with Golyadkin (the original one’s) mind that you completely understand why he’s confused. Because you as the reader are also uncertain as to what the heck is happening.
Another amazing story from one of the greatest writers!
Prompt: a book set in a country that fascinates you
[I’ve tried learning Russian before. Epic fail haha]
Challenge update: 34/50