Give me books, fruit, french wine and fine weather and a little music out of doors. --John Keats

Monday, October 18, 2010

"The Dream Life of Sukhanov" by Olga Grushin

Following on the heels of last week's sampling of Kafka, here's a novel whose moorings to reality have been jolted askew. It accompanies a privileged Russian art critic, sometime darling of the government, as he recalls odd memories and experiences strange dreams which begin a bizarre intrusion upon his life until what is real, what is recollection, and what is nightmare are inseparably tangled.

Beyond the enticing strangeness of the story, I was quite impressed by Grushin's unusually descriptive writing. It was beautifully expressive but never trite. Whereas someone might see it as unnecessarily flashy, I reveled in the unique choices of words which resulted in passages that might be favorably compared to a vivid painting.

It seemed to me that Grushin knew just where to draw the line in relating her rich images. If she'd written the entire book with that same intensity, the result would have seemed overblown, diluting the impact of each scene and sapping much of the strength from the novel. Instead, Grushin's adept depictions heightened the dream-like quality of the story, causing time to slow as the reader was drawn in to peer at a minute detail; at the next moment, with a step back and a broader focus, time snaps back into shape.

I was a little bit disappointed that, other than its surreal and illusive nature, the cover art was not more directly related to the story. I'd been looking forward to hearing about the specific dream it depicts, and discovering the significance of the missing rung on the ladder. However, much weirdness in the book is left unexplained, so even if an incomplete ladder had been mentioned, I still might not know the meaning behind it.


Dizzy C said...

I have tagged u! :)


Jessica Hill said...

I haven't heard of this book, but it sounds intriguing. I'm always looking for unique, surreal books. I will have to check this one out!

Kathy said...

Hi Carol! Thanks for the tag, although I must admit I'm kind of a party pooper with stuff like that. :) It was fun to read your responses, though!

Jessica--if you like unique and surreal, this one will definitely fit the bill! And if you do end up reading it, I'll be looking forward to hearing what you think about it. I had fun trying to guess about parts of it (which I didn't blog about, because I didn't see how I could without posting spoilers). It would be interesting to see if you make the same guesses as I did.

Becky (Page Turners) said...

Sounds wonderful, the author is new to me but the story sounds great

Kristi said...

This sounds really interesting. I love beautifully descriptive writing as well. I've never heard of this author. Is this her first book?

Kathy said...

Becky--Grushin was new to me too. It really was a great story! I enjoyed the read quite a bit.

Kristi--This is Grushin's first book (published in 2006), but she has since written another (called The Line in the states and The Concert Ticket elsewhere), which was published earlier this year.

Stephanie said...

I always enjoy your writing tremendously. I especially like the way you described how this author uses rich imagery sparingly to draw the reader into certain scenes and heighten the dreamlike effect. This sounds like a novel I'd enjoy

Kathy said...

Oh, Stephanie, how kind of you to say so! It's especially nice to hear that as a comment on this specific post, because for some unknown reason I had the hardest time writing it. I really liked the book, but I could hardly think of anything to say about it. But the struggle was worth it, if you enjoyed the result tremendously! :)