A book blog about Russia in English-language fiction

Tag: East Germany

Motherland by G.D. Abson (2017)

G. D. (Garry) Abson’s first book is a cracking crime novel, set in contemporary St Petersburg and shaped around the character of a maverick female detective, Natalya Ivanova.

In Abson’s portrayal of Russia, for ‘maverick’, read ‘not corrupt’. Ivanova’s efforts to solve crime —in this case the disappearance of a young woman— are hindered as much by obstructive, careerist, regime-loyal colleagues as they are by the normal stuff such as lack of evidence and the deceptive nature of the criminal class.

One strap-line we have seen used for Motherland goes like this.

‘Natalya Ivanova does for St Petersburg what Martin Cruz Smith’s Arkady Renko did for Soviet-era Moscow.’

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Red Army by Ralph Peters (1989)

Part two of this review is here

Future war books are a distinct sub-genre in Russia-in-fiction novels. Over the coming months this blog will review several. Others we will snub.

[Update — review of Red Metal (2019) posted 10 August 2021]

Russia in Fiction approaches such books with a couple of specific prejudices. We are not into military stuff per se; endless eye-glazing pages about high-tech weaponry, artillery placement, and military tactics. Yawn. And we are wary when such books —as sometimes—are more political manifesto than readable fiction.

Red Army side-steps both of these elephant traps with ease. Ralph Peters has written a superbly original account of a war that never was.

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The Listener by Anne Telscombe (1968)

For the first —and no doubt only— time, Russia in Fiction is reviewing a book that does not mention Russia.

And its set-up cannot fail but bring to mind the 2006 Oscar-winning German movie Das Leben des Anderen (The Lives of Others).

In the basement of a block of flats in the capital of ‘an anonymous Iron Curtain country’ called Commitania, sits a man, headphones on, tape reels whirring, listening in on conversations throughout the apartment block.

And how do we know it is about Moscow in the 1960s? Regular readers of this blog might already have picked up the clues.

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The Russian Affair by Michael Wallner (2011) – part one

Part two of this review is here.

Are you familiar with the notion of nostalgia for a time or place that you have never known? Anemoia is the term.

Or perhaps, as we are dealing here with a novel translated from German into English, the German word Sehnsucht is appropriate; often simply translated as nostalgia, it has a sense of wistful vagueness that the more common German word Nostalgie does not have.

Michael Wallner’s novel prompted anemoia in me.

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Brandenburg by Henry Porter (2005)

Ssshh, I’m sneaking this book into these ‘Russia in fiction’ reviews , despite the fact that Henry Porter’s Brandenburg is not about Russia or set in Russia.

So why am I mentioning it here? Two real reasons: first, it’s just a terrific book — one of my favourite political thrillers; second, whilst it might not really be ‘Russia in fiction’, it does feature —as a major character— a young Vladimir Putin, serving as a KGB Colonel in Dresden.

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